Officials are assessing the damage after mild temperatures and powerful winds helped whip several grass fires across southern Alberta on Wednesday. Some residents were evacuated from their homes as a result.
A downed power line sparked a fire south of Nanton. Residents in about 25 houses were notified that they might have to leave. The fire destroyed three residences, and other structures in the area are being checked for damage. At least 70 firefighters helped contain the flames.
A second fire was burning between the communities of Granum and Fort Macleod. About 100 residents were put on evacuation alert. Visibility was reduced due to thick smoke, and the Municipal District of Willow Creek declared a state of emergency.
A third fire was burning out of control near Walsh and eventually spread over the border and into Saskatchewan.
At one point Wednesday afternoon, RCMP had closed a portion of Highway 2 and were redirecting traffic. In addition to flames and smoke nearby, there were also a number of large vehicle rollovers that emergency crews were dealing with because of the winds.
Some firemen suffered smoke inhalation, but no other injuries were reported and all three fires were brought under control.
In Claresholm, a wind gust of 117 km/h was recorded Wednesday.
“Lately we have been seeing a lot of Chinook winds, which bring very mild and very windy conditions to southern Alberta,” explains Elena Lappo, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.
The combination of a lack of snow, mild temperatures and gusty winds made for perfect breeding conditions for grass fires.
The city of Calgary hit 15°C on Wednesday, breaking a 98-year-old temperature record.
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