Fire Fighting in Canada

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Snow dampens Alberta wildfire that threatened two small communities

Dec. 19, 2018, Robb, Alta. - Evacuation notices have been lifted in a few small Alberta communities after an out-of-season wildfire that threatened them was brought under control.

Alberta wildfire information officer Caroline Charbonneau says strong winds with gusts up to 100 km/hr on Friday night blew trees onto roads and blocked access for crews fighting the flames east of Jasper National Park.

Yellowhead County says its peace officers went door-to-door in the communities of Robb and Mercoal on Friday to let residents know to be ready in case an evacuation was necessary.

But Charbonneau says the area received close to five centimetres of snow overnight, bringing the fires under control.

Another small blaze further north near Marlboro also burned overnight Friday but was extinguished Saturday morning.

Wildfire season for Alberta officially ended Oct. 31, but Charbonneau says there hasn't been much snow, and that combined with warm temperatures lately have left the area very dry.

"When we were dispatched for the call, the crew had a hard time reaching the fire because of the high winds and the debris on the road," Charbonneau said Saturday.

"A lot of trees were falling over. Lots of debris on the roads, which caused a lot of issues for us."

Yellowhead County said on Facebook that its crews, working with Parkland County, have now finished clearing fallen trees that were blocking roads in the Robb and Mercoal area.

It said its firefighters and peace officers, which had been on-scene overnight, are now standing down.

Charbonneau said the overnight snow made it hard to tell how much land had burned in the blaze that threatened the communities, but later in the afternoon a news release from the province estimated the fire had consumed 434 hecatres.

The release said it appeared that few flames were visible.

Winter fires aren't common, Charbonneau said, but they do happen from time to time.

"We've had winter fires in the past, some fairly large winter fires. And these fires are often sustained by chinook conditions," she explained.

"They're very warm winds, they dry up the ground. We lose most of our snow on a windy warm day."

December 17, 2018 
By The Canadian Press

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