A wildfire in the Nordegg area that grew to 75 hectares was declared out of control Thursday afternoon and the hamlet of Nordegg was put on a one-hour evacuation notice if required.
On Wednesday, the 45-hectare fire near Fish Lake was about 15 km west of Nordegg and was being held. On Thursday the fire shifted and was two km southwest of Nordegg.
“It started going back out of control on us at 2:30 p.m. It was wind that picked up on us. We’re aggressively actioning it. We’ve got air tankers and heavy equipment on it,” said fire information officer Barry Shellian with Rocky Mountain House Wildfire Management Area.
“Given the current fire conditions and the weather it doesn’t look like it’s going to be going towards Nordegg. It’s kind of shifting south,” Shellian said late Thursday afternoon.
The fire was reported on Sunday and earlier this week Fish Lake Campground and Frontier Lodge were on evacuation standby.
Thursday’s evacuation notice did not include them.
The number of firefighters at the fire grew to 60 from 36. Three bulldozers and three helicopters were also being used.
“Crews have been ordered from outside the Rocky Mountain House area to assist with this.”
The Forestry Trunk Road was to be closed from Hwy 11 to the North Fork Road.
Shellian said it was potentially the largest wildfire burning in Alberta but the size of wildfires change all the time.
Clearwater County issued Nordegg’s evacuation notice on the recommendation of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
The county warned that since significant amounts of smoke were expected, residents with respiratory ailments may choose to voluntarily evacuate the area.
Residents leaving the area were asked to call the county at 1-403-845-4444 to register and provide contact information.
Ron Leaf, CAO for Clearwater County, said at 5 p.m. staff started going door-to-door to alert Nordegg residents about the possibility of evacuation.
Nordegg has about 50 full-time residents as well as seasonal residents.
An evacuation plan for 100 to 150 people was being developed.
The regional fire department was identifying resources needed, like helicopters and fire trucks, if fire put structures at risk.
“This is proactive planning at this particular point in time. It’s based on a worst-case scenario with no suppression.
“We’re in very close contact working with ESRD on making the determination of what this fire is going to do over the next 24 to 72 hours. We also have RCMP involved.
“We’re co-ordinating with AHS. This is truly a multi-agency response,” Leaf said Thursday night.
In July 2006, Nordegg was evacuated for four days when a 124-hectare fire, two km southeast of Nordegg, threatened the community. About 130 residents and recreational users in the area were evacuated.
Due to high hazard conditions, a fire advisory was in put into effect for the Rocky Mountain House Wildfire Management Area on Thursday.
Existing fire permits were suspended and no new permits will be issued until conditions allow.
Safe campfires were still allowed, but could be restricted in the coming days if conditions worsen.
Updates on the wildfire are available on ESRD’s wildfire information line — 1-866-916-INFO(4636) — or by visiting www.clearwatercounty.ca.