ALBERTA

Nordegg Lodgepole Fire Evacuations: 200 Residents Flee Foothills Fires In West-Central Alberta

05/13/2013 11:32 EDT | Updated 07/13/2013 05:12 EDT
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NORDEGG, Alta. - About 200 people remained out of their homes late Monday as forest fires threatened two communities in the foothills of west-central Alberta.

Emergency evacuations were ordered Sunday afternoon for Nordegg and Lodgepole when high winds drove flames towards the hamlets.

Officials said all 100 of Lodgepole's residents had been accounted for and the highway in had been closed. An update issue by Brazeau County said the situation remained "out of control" and residents and industry were not being allowed into the area, about 100 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.

The fire, covering an area of about 12 square kilometres, was within two kilometres of the community. More than 50 firefighters, 12 helicopters and various heavy equipment and airtankers were fighting the blaze.

Officials said there were no reports of structure damage, and firefighters were expected to work overnight to contain the situation as quickly as possible.

Resident Evangeline Braun said being forced out was tough.

"You worry about do I have a home to go back to and do I have anything in it?" she said.

Another 100-plus people fled Nordegg and 60 registered at an evacuation centre at Rocky Mountain House, about an hour's drive away, although none stayed overnight.

Clearwater County spokeswoman Christine Heggart said between 45 and 55 people live in Nordegg year-round and there are a good number of seasonal residents as well. The county said everyone had left.

Nordegg is about 200 kilometres southwest of Edmonton and the surrounding area is popular for hiking and fishing.

The flames crossed a forestry trunk road overnight and crews were working to build new fire guards. By Monday evening, the fire was reported to be more than three square kilometres in size, though officials said it had not grown much during the day.

Firefighters and heavy equipment were to work overnight and air tankers were expected to be called in on Tuesday.

In all, there were more than 100 firefighters, various heavy equipment and air tankers, and six helicopters fighting the blaze. As of Monday evening, there were no reports of structure damage.

The spread of the fires will depend on whether conditions. Ron Leaf, chief administrative officer for Clearwater County, said crews were looking to the sky for some help with the Nordegg fire, which was 1.5 kilometres from the hamlet.

"The forecast is for 40 per cent chance of precipitation on Tuesday, so a lot of it really depends on how much it cools off and how much the winds die," Leaf said.

Last week, a provincial official said conditions in some parts of Alberta were similar to May 2011 when flames roared through the town of Slave Lake. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands of people were forced to flee. The wildfire caused an estimated $1 billion in damage, including firefighting and relief costs.

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

A raging wildfire also forced an evacuation in British Columbia's southern interior between Ashcroft and Kamloops. The order to get out came as high winds fanned the two-week-old Spatsum Creek blaze.

One structure was destroyed early Sunday, but fire officials said the flames were moving away from homes and toward a highway.

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