A bomber drops foam and water onto the out-of-control Rocky Wildfire 15 km. west of Nordegg Friday.

A bomber drops foam and water onto the out-of-control Rocky Wildfire 15 km. west of Nordegg Friday.

Nordegg residents remain on alert

NORDEGG — Residents remained on one-hour evacuation notice on Friday as firefighters, waterbombers and helicopters battled an out-of-control forest fire. Rocky Wildfire 15 grew to over 250 acres about two km southwest of the Nordegg townsite, near its industrial properties and west of the historic Brazeau Colleries mine site.

NORDEGG — Residents remained on one-hour evacuation notice on Friday as firefighters, waterbombers and helicopters battled an out-of-control forest fire.

Rocky Wildfire 15 grew to over 250 acres about two km southwest of the Nordegg townsite, near its industrial properties and west of the historic Brazeau Colleries mine site.

The industrial sites are on the Forestry Trunk Road, which remains closed from Hwy 11 to the North Fork Road.

“Fire crews have worked all night going along the edge digging breaks and scoring the perimeter,” said wildlife ranger and information officer Barry Shellian of the province’s Environment and Sustainable Resource Department.

“Nights make the work more effective since temperatures drop and relative humidity rises.

“We have about 50 firefighters with more coming, plus bulldozers on the fire line,” he said.

Four helicopters bucketed water from the nearby North Saskatchewan River.

And six planes continuously dropped water mixed with foam on the fire’s edges to prevent its spreading before racing back to Abraham Lake to refill.

Officials hoped a burn-out operation to clear strips of fuel around the fire’s perimeter would stop it from advancing further.

Blown down trees from the valley’s notorious plow winds — which can reach over 100 km/h — plus dry grass are feeding the flames.

Clearwater County chief administrative officer Ron Leaf said the evacuation plan called for putting up about 100 residents in Rocky Mountain House.

He’s glad that Friday’s lesser southeast winds pushed the fire back on itself and away from town, but the relief may not last.

“We’re looking at increased temperatures over the weekend and they tend to bring high westerly winds.”

Despite dry conditions compelling the province to issue a fire advisory for the Rocky Mountain House Wildfire Management Area, planned West Country controlled burns may still take place, said Shellian.

“It’s a fire-dependent ecosystem to regenerate.”

Shellian said the fire’s cause remains under investigation, although “there’s been no lightning this year and many of our fires are human caused.”

Resident Nancy Vermette hoped she and her husband wouldn’t have to grab their cats and run as they did for four days in 2006 when a 300-acre fire threatened the town.

“It does make you think about what to take if you have just an hour.”

Murray Yelland said he and other residents have had a trying spring after going without water last month due to a reservoir leak.

The mild winter was a plus, but contributed to the current conditions.

“It’s the least snow I’ve seen since I lived here for almost seven years.”

Updates on the fire are available on the province’s wildfire information line — 1-866-916-INFO(4636) — or by visiting www.clearwatercounty.ca.

rfiedler@bprda.wpengine.com