BINDLOSS, ALTA- A large grass fire in the Bindloss area north of Medicine Hat has destroyed at least one home.
According to Creston Anderson, the fire chief for Bindloss, the fire began around 6:00 p.m. on Monday evening, with flames inside CFB Suffield.
Anderson was sent down to the fence between Suffield and the surrounding area, and monitored the flames, which eventually jumped the fence and began burning eastwards.
Fire officials said the fire started near the north east corner of the CFB Suffield base.
The base confirming military personnel detonated an unexploded ordnance, leading to a grass fire that got out of control for their fire crew on scene.
Acting commander Major Hugh Atwell said they are taking responsibility for the fire on the base, but not the one outside of it until further investigation.
As of Tuesday morning, the flames had consumed a home in the area, 13 miles south of Bindloss, as well as the surrounding farmyard, outbuildings, and personal vehicles of the home’s owner. A nearby neighbour, Carol Hern, said the elderly homeowner had been asleep at the time of the fire.
“The neighbours went over, and knocked and knocked on the door, there was no answer,” said Hern.
“They had to break down the door to get him, because he was sleeping. They had to break down the door, because he didn’t hear it, and they took him out of there. In about 15 minutes, the fire was there.”
Hern said that the fire couldn’t be contained by residents after it showed up near her home, and homeowners were phoning for help. Eventually, larger equipment came to the scene.
“From everywhere, it was amazing,” said Hern.
“Great big graders, and tractors and plows. It was wonderful.”
The blaze resulted in a state of emergency and mandatory evacuation order being issued in the Special Areas Board, a rural municipality located north of Medicine Hat along the South Saskatchewan River. The order was focused on people living east of Range Road 23, and south of Highway 555, extending to Highway 41.
At the time of the order being issued, residents were told to head to the Bindloss School in Bindloss, Alberta. Around 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the mandatory evacuation was completed, with over 40 people registering at the emergency reception centre set up at the school building.
The emergency alert has now been ended for the area.
As for property damage in the wider area, Anderson said that miles of fenceline had been destroyed, as well as hundreds of haybales, with power lines across the area knocked down. ATCO has been working to restore power.
“It’s absolutely horrific,” said Anderson.
“We’ve dealt with this our entire lives, but we’ve never had anything comparable to this.”
At the time of the interview, Anderson indicated that the fire was now contained outside of the CFB Suffield border, while still burning inside the base.
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