Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big grass fire spurs Alberta evacuations

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. -- High winds were fuelling a massive grass fire in southern Alberta on Monday, prompting precautionary evacuations in at least three communities.

However, conditions were improving by late evening, with officials saying water bombers had managed to knock back the flames, and cooler temperatures were also helping.

Residents of Coalhurst and Milk River, with populations of 2,200 and 800, respectively, were ordered out of their homes, along with rural residents in the region.

A mobile-home park in the much larger city of Lethbridge was also cleared and the city declared a state of emergency.

Evacuees from Coalhurst and Lethbridge were directed to congregate at three points -- a gymnasium in Lethbridge, the Enmax building in Lethbridge and the community centre in Picture Butte. The people of Milk River were told to go to the nearby town of Raymond.

Barbara Edgecombe-Green, spokeswoman for the town of Coalhurst, said police went door to door telling people to get out immediately. The town supplied a bus for those who had no transportation.

"For the moment, the town is not affected, but we are in direct line of the fire, so to make sure everyone is safe, we are evacuating the town," Edgecombe-Green said Monday afternoon.

She said all the fire resources in the surrounding communities, including the fire department on the Blood reserve, were working to fight the blaze.

Residents who made it to the evacuation centre in Picture Butte said it was a nerve-wracking trip on a normally quiet highway now jammed with cars.

Once they got there, they were told it would be several hours before they would know if they could return home.

 

-- The Canadian Press

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 11, 2012 A5

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