Wildfire prompts evacuation orders in part of west-central Alberta

A wildfire burning northwest of Nordegg, Alta., triggered evacuation orders for a number of nearby areas on Wednesday.

“Clearwater County is issuing an evacuation order for Snow Creek PRA, Dry Haven PRA, Centre for Outdoor Education, Fish Lake PRA, Frontier Lodge and Goldeye Lake PRA and area,” county officials said via an Alberta Emergency Alert issued at 7:15 p.m.

“Residents and visitors to the area are asked to leave immediately.”

County officials added that people in the hamlet of Nordegg were also being put on evacuation alert.

“Residents and visitors in the Nordegg area are asked to be prepared to leave within two hours of being notified,” the alert said.

A spokesperson for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry said Clearwater County officials have set up an evacuation centre for campers who need a place to go. It is located at the North Saskatchewan River Park on Range Road 73A.

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County officials said the wildfire was burning near the Bighorn First Nation and that there was “significant smoke in the area.”

READ MORE: Western Canada dealing with multiple wildfires amid warm, dry weather

They added that crews from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry were battling the blaze from the air.

A post on the Alberta Wildfire website early Wednesday evening said the blaze was about 10 hectares in size and classified as out of control. However, just after 9 p.m., a wildfire spokesperson for the province said it had grown to over 200 hectares in size.

“This fire is getting to be a pretty significant size,” said Travis Fairweather, a wildfire information officer with the Alberta government. “Whenever we see this increased fire behaviour, it poses a huge risk to the firefighting crews and people in the aircraft helping to fight that wildfire.”

“It is located 19 kilometres west of Nordegg,” Alberta Wildfire said on its website. “There are wildland firefighters as well as helicopters and an airtanker working on this wildfire.”

Fairweather said the fire began in a fairly remote area on a hill and was first detected at about 2 p.m. on Tuesday, though it did not grow significantly in size until Wednesday.

“Today, with the increased temperatures and winds and lower relative humidities, unfortunately it was able to break containment,” he said, adding that while the evacuation orders and alerts are a precaution to ensure everyone stays safe, “it’s a pretty serious situation.”

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Shortly after 8 p.m., Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement for parts of Clearwater County and Yellowhead County because of the amount of smoke being generated by the wildfire.

“High concentrations of fine particulate matter near the surface will continue impacting some areas,” the weather agency said. “Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath.

“Children, seniors and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.”

Nordegg is located about 300 kilometres southwest of Edmonton and 300 kilometres northwest of Calgary.

According to Alberta Wildfire, there have been 656 wildfires in the province since Jan. 1. Those fires have burned about 97,395 hectares of land.

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