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Evacuation alert issued for Nordegg, Bighorn area due to wildfire

15 wildfires burning in Rocky Mountain House Forest Area

An evacuation alert has been issued for Nordegg and the Bighorn area as wildfire danger in the Rocky Mountain House Forest Area remains “very high.”

The evacuation alert is meant for everyone west of Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area and east of the Bighorn Dam, the county announced on Friday afternoon.

Residents are asked to plan their evacuation with enough items to keep themselves comfortable for at least 72 hours.

“The evacuation alert is in place to be extra cautious given the extreme fire hazard and weather conditions making firefighting operations challenging,” the county’s evacuation alert states.

As of Friday afternoon Alberta Wildfire’s online dashboard showed there are 15 wildfires burning in the Rocky Mountain House Forest Area.

Four of these wildfires are classified as being held, five are classified as under control and six are considered to be “out of control.”

The out of control wildfires in the area include:

  • 20 kilometres from O’Chiese First Nation, at 12 hectares, where 26 firefighters, two intermediate and two medium helicopter, and one airtanker are working;
  • Bighorn Reserve, at 12 hectares, where 24 firefighters and three helicopters are working;
  • 43 kilometres southeast of Edson, at 24,000 hectares, where three dozer groups are on standby to action and three helicopters are working. Airtanker support and an ignition specialist have also been requested. Oil and has facilities, as well as one campground, were evacuated on Thursday night.

Alberta wildfire states that lightning through the Rocky Mountain House Forest Area has been causing many fire starts.

“Lightning can cause wildfire, which can smoulder on the ground for a few days before becoming active and visible. This is called a ‘holdover’ fire,” the Alberta Wildfire website states.

“Alberta Forestry, parks and tourism follows weather forecasts and also tracks each lightning strike using a tracking system. This allows them to pinpoint where there are areas that have been heavily impacted by lightning. They then send out firefighters to patrol these areas.”

Since Jan. 1, there have been 29 wildfires in the Rocky Mountain House Forest Area, burning a total of 130.81 hectares.

Provincially, there are 72 active wildfires in Alberta, including 44 new wildfire starts on Friday. These wildfires have resulted in the evacuation of thousands of people.

The province’s Emergency Management Cabinet Committee was scheduled to meet Friday in response to the current wildfire situation across the province.

“Cabinet continues to be kept up to date on the wildfire situation – as is the leader of the Opposition per the Premier’s request. Cabinet continues to have decision-making abilities to deal with emergency decisions,” said a statement issued by the premier’s office.

“This is a very serious ongoing situation, and Alberta’s government will continue to monitor and provide Albertans with the most up-to-date information.”

Albertans are encourages to download the Alberta Emergency Alert mobile app, which immediately pushes all emergency alerts out to subscribers.

On Friday, YMCA Northern Alberta also offered evacuees free access to their facilities, including four in Edmonton and one in Red Deer. According to the release, “individuals and families are welcome to access these locations free of charge for recreational use, showering, etc. during standard hours of operation.

“Evacuees can walk into any of the locations listed below and by showing photo ID may use the facilities for no charge for the duration of these evacuations”.

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Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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