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  • Writer's pictureLorna Hamilton

Grass Fires Prompt Closure Of Highway 41

Emergency vehicles and farmers on scene of grass fires. Photo submitted

Reports of multiple spot fires along Highway #41 south of Highway #16 prompted an urgent response from the Vermilion Fire & Rescue Society on Friday, May 10th in the afternoon.

Arriving on the scene just after 1 p.m., emergency crews were confronted with a challenging situation: upwards of 19 fires were in the west ditch, stretching from the off-ramp down to Township Road 481. With each fire swiftly assessed, mutual aid was summoned from neighbouring Clandonald Fire and Kitscoty Fire Department.

Despite the valiant efforts of local landowners and farmers who rallied to assist, ferocious winds exacerbated the situation, causing embers to swirl and flames to spread rapidly. At Township Road 484, the fire leaped across the highway, threatening nearby residences and structures, prompting authorities to take the decisive step of closing a section of Highway #41.

Emcon Services Inc. quickly deployed roadblocks and detours, redirecting traffic from Highway #619 southward towards the Wainwright County border, as the fires continued to gain momentum and merge into larger conflagrations.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, additional reinforcements were called in from Wainwright Fire & Rescue, Irma Fire Rescue, County #9-1, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Alberta Vermilion Detachment, alongside support from ATCO energy Fortis Power and County of Vermilion River Public Works.

The collaborative effort saw a staggering array of resources deployed, including over 30 pieces of fire apparatus, dozens of tractors, graders, heavy machinery, and agricultural implements, as well as nearly 50 firefighters from eight different departments.

Vermilion Fire Chief Anton Krys, overseeing the operation, declared the fire contained at approximately 7:20 p.m., following hours of intense firefighting efforts.

While the cause of the fire is under investigation, authorities have stated that foul play is not suspected.

Meanwhile, emergency responders faced further challenges, with additional calls reported in the Rivercourse area for a grass fire (Paradise Valley Fire Department attended, along Highway #16 for a Track Fire which brought out the Blackfoot Fire and Rescue, and Marwayne/Dewberry attended to a Tractor fire. However, through coordinated efforts, these incidents were also swiftly brought under control.

By late evening, County Chief Kirk Hughes confirmed that all fires had been extinguished, with crews safely returning to their respective halls, marking an end to the day’s crisis.

Acknowledgements have been extended to dispatchers for their swift allocation of resources, local farmers and ranch owners for their courageous assistance, and volunteers who answered the call to action. Special appreciation is also expressed to Dewberry Fire & Rescue and Islay Fire for providing crucial backup support.

The County of Vermilion has been kept extremely busy with 60 calls of service in the month of April with 18 grass/field/brush fires, 18 medical calls, 10 mutual aid, seven alarms, four motor vehicle collisions including 1 extrication, electrical hazards, one rescue, and one STARS Landing.

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