Firefighter dies battling wildfire in Alberta

Firefighter dies battling wildfire in Alberta

“It’s terrible. It will devastate the community for a while here. He’ll surely be missed.”

A volunteer firefighter was killed and two men trying to beat back flames on their property were injured in wind-whipped wildfires that scorched parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan and forced the evacuation of several communities.

Officials with Cypress County in southeastern Alberta confirmed the death of James Hargrave, 34, who was with the Walsh fire station. He was helping to fight a fierce grass fire Tuesday that had been driven into Saskatchewan by winds gusting to 100 km/h.

“He was an awesome fellow. He was very nice, kind and very considerate of the community and the people around him,” said Walsh resident Chris Sauer.

“He ran a big ranch north of Walsh with his wife and four young children. He was just an all-around nice person.”

Walsh had a listed population of 60 in the 2016 census. Sauer said everyone knows everybody.

“It’s terrible. It will devastate the community for a while here. He’ll surely be missed.”

Rick Friesen from Vauxhall, Alta., knew Hargrave when the two served together as delegates with the Alberta Beef Producers.

“He was a great young guy. He was friendly, hard-working and a good family man. It’s a shame what happened to him and I feel for his family.”

Related: Death and destruction, hope and heroism in California fires

RCMP said Cypress County firefighters were assisting Saskatchewan crews when there was a crash around midnight involving a water truck and a pickup truck south of Burstall, Sask.

Police said Hargrave was alone in the water truck and died at the scene. The driver of the pickup truck was not badly hurt.

It wasn’t known if fire or smoke in the area were factors in the accident.

“This tragic loss of life speaks to the danger that this emergency posed and also to the heroism of the volunteers who sacrifice in service of their neighbours,” Cpl. Curtis Peters said in a release.

“The RCMP extends its deepest and most sincere condolences to the family of the deceased as well as his friends and colleagues in the Cypress County Fire Department.”

The men trying to protect their land near Tompkins, Sask., were seriously injured and had to be transported to hospital in Calgary. The RCMP did not have an update Wednesday on the condition of the two, who are 43 and 27 years old.

The executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency said Hargrave’s death outlines how dangerous grass fires can be.

“It is a very dangerous business that they’re in. Last night’s events are a clear indication of that,” said Scott Long.

“Grass fires, especially with that kind of wind, move at incredibly fast rates of speed and even professionals find themselves in precarious situations.”

On Wednesday evening, provincial officials updated the number of homes lost to 14 —two in Stobart, four in Gleichen, one in Rockyview County, five in Acadia Valley and two on the Siksika First Nation. They said, however, that could go up as further assessments are done.

All but one of the evacuations ordered during the height of the fires had been lifted by Wednesday.

In Saskatchewan, residents of Leader and Burstall were allowed to return home and the fire near Tompkins was under control, although a farmhouse and barn were lost. There was also a loss of some livestock near Richmound.

However, thousands of Saskatchewan residents were without electricity.

One one local state of emergency remained in effect in Alberta in the Crowsnest Pass area of southwestern Alberta, where 150 people were forced from their homes in Coleman.

Related: B.C. wildfires to burn into 2018

While an evacuation order remained in place Wednesday, the mayor of Crowsnest Pass said things had calmed down somewhat.

“The wind has died down. We’ve got helicopters bucketing the area,” Mayor Blair Painter said.

“We were able to divert the fire so it hasn’t affected those areas. I’m hoping we’re able to get those people back just as soon as possible.”

Painter said the blaze was probably caused by downed power lines as a result of strong winds.

No one was injured and a welcome centre was set up in the nearby town of Pincher Creek, where more than 80 residents had registered.

Painter said it was a wild scene when the fire started.

“We had 130 kilometre-an-hour gusts. Probably about 100 kilometres an hour steady, and then gusts up to 130. Guys were even having a hard time standing up so, yeah, it was pretty scary.”

Painter said it didn’t appear any homes burned down. Two barns and two outbuildings were confirmed lost to the fire. A fish hatchery also sustained roof damage from the wind.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry had 25 wildland firefighters supporting local fire departments. Four helicopters were being deployed.

Related: Wildfire spreads in southwestern Alberta

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

 

Firefighter dies battling wildfire in Alberta

Just Posted

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

Kate Cram and her team at Old Town Ice Cream are thrilled to be open for business. (Cole Schisler photo)
Old Town Ice Cream opens up right on time for summer

Located at 539 1st Avenue, Old Time Ice Cream is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read