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Wind storm, wildfire aftermath in Alberta

Some evacuation orders remain in place at Coleman, Alta., where a wildfire continues to burn west of the Crowsnest Pass municipality and is still under a state of local emergency.

Three other Alberta municipalities – Wheatland County, Medicine Hat and Acadia – ended their emergency declarations last night after high winds abated and wildfires had been put out.

Condolences are being extended by emergency personnel, politicians and many others upon the death of James Hargrave, a rancher in the Walsh, Alta., area who served on the local volunteer fire department and died fighting a blaze north of Hilda, Alta., on Tuesday night.

A fundraising page has been set up to raise money for Hargrave’s family. You can find that page here.

As of 7 p.m. Wednesday night, assessment of damage in various areas showed 14 homes lost to fire. They include:

– two in the hamlet of Stobart

– four in the hamlet of Gliechen

– one in Rockyview County

– five in Acadia Valley

– two on Siksika First Nation

Some outbuildings were reported destroyed in the Crowsnest Pass but contrary to earlier suspicions, the Allison Creek Fish Hatchery west of Coleman was not damaged.

An Alberta government news release said damage in the fire-struck areas is still being assessed and the above list may be altered as that progresses.

The Coleman area fire is an estimated 262 acres in size. Wind warnings continue today and Alberta Agriculture has 25 fire fighters supporting local fire departments in fighting the blaze. Four helicopters and heavy equipment are also at the scene.

In a fire update yesterday, Scott Long of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency said more than 500 residents were evacuated from their homes Tuesday night in various southern Alberta communities because of grass fires.

Most of the fires appeared to be started by electrical lines put down by high winds, said Long, but that remains to be determined.

Three train derailments were also reported and although Long said wind was likely a factor, he couldn’t confirm that high winds blew the trains off the tracks.

Mutual aid agreements were enacted in all the fires, Long added, meaning that area fire and rescue operations in affected municipalities and those nearby marshaled their efforts to fight fire.

“Albertans helping Albertans,” was how he phrased it, while congratulating all first responders on their efforts.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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