Flames lick at their feet as Caroline firefighters use a rapid response unit to tend the fire break set around a grass fire south of Leslieville

Clearwater firefighters stay busy with multiple wildfires

Firefighters in Clearwater County have been working overtime to control an unusual number of wildfires during recent days.

Firefighters in Clearwater County have been working overtime to control an unusual number of wildfires during recent days.

Cammie Laird, fire chief for the Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Service, said on Monday that there were 10 fires reported over the weekend, including one that came perilously close to a house.

Most recently, crews from Leslieville, Condor, Caroline and Rocky Mountain House were called at about 7:30 p.m on Monday to tackle a brush fire that had spread into a hayfield and a heavy stand of spruce trees about three km south of Leslieville.

Crews were able to get control of the fire before the treed area became too heavily involved, said Laird. She estimated the fire would cover about 10 acres of land by the time it could be safely extinguished. It appears to have broken out from old embers fanned by high winds on what had been a hot, dry day, she said.

Embers from brush fires in swampy areas and muskeg can smoulder for weeks, months and even years, igniting new fires when conditions are right, said Laird.

In this case, fire crews and local farmers were able to create a break around the fire and hold it to a wetland area that would normally be under water at this time of year, she said.

Crews and equipment were stationed at strategic points in the surrounding hayfield to make sure the fire did not breach the containment area.

Laird said there is a strong possibility of more fires as warm, dry conditions continue, made worse by periods of high wind. There is some rain forecast for later in the week, but not enough to significantly dampen the threat.

Clearwater County is under a fire advisory right now, meaning all burning permits have been cancelled and no new permits will be issued. Campfires are still allowed in the Rocky Forest Area, but people must employ safe campfire practices and make sure their fires are thoroughly doused and completely out before leaving their sites.

Up-to-date reports on fire conditions throughout Alberta, including a map of fire bans and advisories, is available online a wildire.alberta.ca

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