Monday, December 7, 2015

Community responds to large grass fire south of Pincher Creek

C. Davis photos/video
Christian Davis

Pincher Creek Emergency Services (PCES) was called to a grass wildland fire approximately 30 kilometres south of Pincher Creek just after 6:30 pm yesterday, December 6, 2015.  The fire was in a rural area several kilometres south of the Shell Waterton Complex, almost due west of Twin Butte. By 10:30 pm the fire was significantly diminished.  At 11:20 it was declared to be under control.  By 12:30 am this morning, December 7 the fire was doused, with one fire truck still on scene to watch for hot spots. Fortis was also still working to restore power to the rural area of the fire,

According to PCES Deputy Chief Patrick Neumann and an eyewitness the fire was believed to have been caused by a downed power line. A wind warning was (and still is at the time this was written) in effect for the region, with winds speeds at the Lundbreck weather station reported to be 82 km/hr by @511Alberta at 9:47 pm. Gusting shifting winds visibly played a part in fanning the fire. At its height, the glow from the fire was observable from the town of Pincher Creek.

Deputy Chief Neumann said no residences were consumed by the blaze.  "There were a couple of residences that were put on evacuation alert at the time, but in the end it didn't affect them."  

According to a preliminary estimate the fire was approximately two sections in scope, with multiple hot spots. "It was all one fire," said Neumann. "It was just that the front was running along different areas through some valleys and coulees out there." Neumann said some of the facts were still vague due to darkness. "I will have a better look at it tomorrow morning."

The demands of the fire, fueled as it was by dry grasses and high winds, resulted in a huge showing of solidarity. Firefighters responded from Pincher Creek Station, Lundbreck Station, Beaver Mines Station, and Peigan Fire. Triple T Energy Services Ltd. brought in a tank truck, "We notified Emergency Management with the MD of Pincher Creek, and they offered assistance, so I want to say thanks to them for their efforts," said Neumann. "The firefighters did a fantastic job out here. Shell was a wonderful community partner with all the resources and information and help they gave us, Riviere's Construction was out here and brought a couple of dozers to help build a dozer guard, if need be. We didn't have to use them, but they had their heavy equipment out here, ready to give us a hand, also. Peigan Fire was a great help."

"Probably 16 or 17 of our (PCES) staff was out here."

A fire earlier in the day to the east near Hill Spring was doused by the landowners and their neighbours, including a team of Hutterites.  PCES was not called to that scene.

Somewhat related, an electronic sign was in operation on Highway 3 just west of the Highway 6 intersection (just west of Pincher Station) advising motorists of a driving restriction on Highway 22, with vehicles over ten tonnes prohibited.  Highway 22 is notorious for the number of blow-over occurrences involving semis and holiday vehicles when wind warnings are in effect, as they were yesterday evening (as mentioned above), continuing into today, December 7.

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