Nordegg evacuees may return home Friday

Nordegg residents may be allowed to return home today if the out-of-control wildfire that forced their evacuation is contained.

Nordegg residents may be allowed to return home today if the out-of-control wildfire that forced their evacuation is contained.

“That’s not a guarantee we’ll be able to do that but it’s what we’re hoping we’ll be in a position to do,” said Mike Haugen, Clearwater County director of community and protective services, on Thursday.

“The fire is still posing a threat to that community although over the past little while the threat has been reducing.

“We’re hoping that by (today) the threat is reduced to a point where we can lift the evacuation.”

The 741-acre wildfire, located 1.5 km from the hamlet, was about 90 per cent contained on Thursday.

Heavy equipment and helicopters continued to reinforce guards around the fire while firefighters and helicopters worked to extinguish ground fire and hot spots.

Barry Shellian, fire information officer with Rocky Mountain House Wildfire Management Area, said the fire has weakened thanks to lower temperatures, reduced wind and higher relative humidity.

“At one point it was going up and candling, torching trees in the crown. Now it’s residual ground fire with smoldering and occasional flaring of dry surface fuels,” Shellian said.

Ground fires can go deep into the organic layers and must be dug up.

In some spots fire have gone down half a metre or more, he said.

“What we’ll be doing is using infrared scanning on helicopters and planes to assist. It will still take us some time to get rid of all that ground fire because it’s really labour intensive.”

Conditions in area are still extremely dry and over 100 firefighters, various heavy equipment and 10 helicopters continue to fight the fire.

“Reinforcements of manpower, heavy equipment and aircraft have been very successful in eliminating any forward spread of that fire,” Shellian said.

Haugen said the May long weekend is one of the busiest for the Nordegg area.

He said even if the evacuation order is lifted it won’t necessarily mean ATV trails affected by fire will be open for use.

“When the evacuation is lifted, there’s still going to be firefighting operations going on.”

Wildfire hazard for Rocky Mountain House Wildfire Management Area is high, but safe campfires were still allowed in the area.

People should check — https://albertafirebans.ca — for updated fire ban information.

Shellian said people who visit the area this weekend need to follow safe recreation protocol.

“It is our backyard and we want to share our backyard with everyone who wants to come out and enjoy it and we want people to respect the land and leave it better then they found it,” Shellian said.

As of Thursday morning, 22 wildfires were burning in Alberta’s forests. The province has had 263 wildfires that have burned over 4,569 acres.

All burning permits have been suspended in the forested areas of Alberta.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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