A grass fire sparked by a train zipped along the railway tracks, close to Waskasoo Meadows in Red Deer County, on Saturday before firefighters and neighbours managed to put it out.
The fire took place a few kilometres southwest of the City of Red Deer, not far from where 32nd Street becomes the C&E Trail. Range Road 275 was closed by Red Deer County as county firefighters fought the flames.
Ric Henderson, assistant county manager and director of protective services, said sometime between 4:30 and 4:40 p.m. a train went by and appears to have started the fire along the side of the tracks. Some of the local folks called 911 and then went out to try to contain the blaze before it reached homes in Waskasoo Meadows.
The fire quickly spread from short grass along the CP Rail line’s west side, into longer grass in a depression between Waskasoo Meadows and a home to the north. Flames of up to two metres tall raced through the former slough and were slowed only by fire fighting efforts by neighbours, who used rakes and shovels to slow the fire’s advance.
Amazingly, an old truck parked along the rail line’s fence escaped damage despite fire raging around it.
Darrel Reis, who lives in Waskasoo Meadows, used a rake to stop the blaze from moving, along with his son Cam and nephew George Wilson.
“I know all the neighbours and I knew where the fire was headed and I thought oh, oh,” he said. He said the fire looked like it was under control when the wind picked up and it started moving.
Red Deer County volunteer firefighters arrived shortly after to extinguish the fire before it reached the home and Range Road 275.
Around 15 firefighters and seven Red Deer County fire trucks, including pickups with a small tank in the back that they call bush trucks, were on the scene. Approximately 10 acres of land was charred by the fire.
“It’s fairly dry right now after this week of warm temperatures,” Henderson said.
He expects more grass fires with the weather expected to be nice this week.
Henderson asked the public to be extra cautious with the current conditions. He said Red Deer County residents are required to have burn permits if they want to have open fires and burn barrels. He also asked people not to throw cigarette butts out the window while driving.