Dual fires in Paintearth County spurred from old burn piles relit by excessive winds

Two fires broke out on Sat. April 25 in the north end of the County of Paintearth. Six fire departments were called as well as several civilians doing their part to mitigate and stop the fires from spreading. Images courtesy of Todd Pawsey

It was an eventful Saturday for the people of the County of Paintearth when two fires, one near Highway 36 close to Alliance, Alta. and another a mile east of Burma Park in the river valley.

The fires were called in one directly after the other at 1:30 p.m. and then 1:45 p.m.

Fire departments from all over were called in including Castor, Coronation, Flagstaff County, Galahad, Hardisty and Veteran.

County of Paintearth’s Director of Emergency Management (DEM), Todd Pawsey, was amazed by the quick, community effort made by those who attended the scenes.

“They hit ‘er pretty hard pretty quick,” he said. “The massive amount of farmers and discs and tractors that showed up just absolutely went to work without being told. 

“You know they saw what was going on and basically jumped into action so I mean that whole community really rallied behind that one. You had the whole community up there mobilized.”

Flats of water were handed out and many farmers and Hutterites were on scene as well with heavy equipment.

Even the odd by-stander had shovels and would put out what they could on the ground.

He determined the cause of the fires came from separate burn piles that had long since been lit months in the past.

“Basically it fanned up expired embers or whatever and started on both cases,” said Pawsey. “We heard that the one up by [Highway] 36 was done like months ago. That stuff can happen, especially when it gets buried. It will stay hot and warmed up down there forever so once it got up into the straw and grassy areas away it went.”

Burma was a smaller fire compared to the other as it had damaged only one field as well as some grassy areas at the base of the Battle River valley while the other had a few more quarters made of grass or stubble involved.

“Those fields will recover eventually,” he said.

“We were glad that when they had put it out, it hadn’t flared back up as of yesterday because it was windier yesterday than it was on Saturday.”

Most units were back in service by 7 p.m. that night.

As of April 27, the county is still under a fire ban.

“There have been a lot of people that have done a previous burning under permits and stuff like that when they were allowed and they may not be aware that unless they are actually knocked over, spread out, covered, fully extinguished they can flare up,” said Pawsey.


Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.


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