A large grass fire that completely destroyed one home in the exclusive community of Sharp Hill, south of Airdrie, and caused significant damage to two other structures Oct. 17, was caused by improper disposal of smoking material, according to a release from the City of Airdrie.
Alberta RCMP Media Liaison Corp. Curtis Peters said the first calls about the blaze came in at approximately 4:15 p.m.
“ Airdrie Fire and Airdrie RCMP were the first to go (to the scene) and it was pretty obvious right away there was going to have to be evacuations to the east of (the fire),” he said.
Peters said RCMP members from Airdrie went from house to house to deliver the evacuation notices. RCMP also secured the scene and closed roads in the area to allow fire crews to work efficiently.
Crews from the Airdrie Fire Department (AFD) and Rocky View County Fire Services (RCVFS) battled the blaze for approximately six hours.
“ The (response) ramped up very quickly, which was fortunate given the dry and windy conditions,” said RVCFS Fire Chief Randy Smith. “ We had crews initially respond from Airdrie, Crossfield and, of course, Rocky View County to the event but we very quickly realized that this grassfire – that started down on the service road at the southwest corner of Sharp Hill – was very quickly traveling up towards the sub division.”
Crews from the Calgary Fire Department and Chestermere Fire Department, along with other firefighters from other stations in RVCFS, were ultimately brought in to battle the blaze.
Smith said there were approximately 50 firefighters at the scene at the height of the incident.
“ The crews were on site until about midnight and through the night,” he said. “ We put security on the line just to watch for hotspots. We’ve had crews back there this morning (Oct. 18) a number of times just because it’s such a large area. They’re just making sure there are no re-kindles or smoldering spots.”
Emergency Operation Centres were set up in Rocky View County (RVC) and Airdrie to co-ordinate the emergency response efforts, according to Smith.
Smith said the rapid spread of the blaze was definitely aided by the high winds at the time and surrounding dry fields.
Airdrie and most of RVC was under a wind warning from Environment Canada at the time, with winds gusting to 60 kilometres per hour. There were no injuries to residents or firefighters. Smith said the cost of the damages is still being determined.
An emergency centre for evacuees was initially set up at the No Frills grocery store in Airdrie but quickly moved to the Rotary Room at Genesis Place Recreation Centre, according to Smith, who said approximately 60 people plus their pets registered and were given assistance by the Airdrie and District Victims Assistance, Canadian Red Cross and Airdrie Food Bank. Residents were allowed to begin returning to their homes at approximately 10 p.m.
AFD urged the public to dispose of smoking materials safely and properly, in a release issued Oct. 19. The release stated these materials should never be thrown from windows of automobiles or placed into containers of plant material.