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Evacuees Return After Willow Creek Blazes


SOUTHERN ALBERTA: Some southwestern Alberta residents are just returning to their homes Thursday morning after up to 200 people were impacted by evacuation orders and warnings in the MD of Willow Creek.

Authorities declared a state of emergency for the area just after lunchtime Wednesday. They called about 125 people to tell them to leave, while roughly 75 people were warned they may have to evacuate. Officials believe the first fire started about eight kilometres west of Highway 2 and north of secondary Highway 785. A second burned east of Nanton.

An assessment of the full extent of the damages is still in the works, but spokesperson Cynthia Vizzutti told Country 95 News Wednesday night that at least 10 buildings have been burned. She couldn't confirm how many, if any, were homes.

Emergency crews from several neighbouring communities helped the Willow Creek fire department battle the blaze - which was contained by nightfall - including crews from the County of Lethbridge, Vulcan County, the Piikani reserve and the fire department from the MD of Foothills. No reported injuries to residents as yet, but at least three firefighters were injured during the incident. Two went to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after their truck rolled over on their way to the action. A third was treated for smoke inhalation.

Fort Macleod RCMP have announced they will assist the Willow Creek fire department and the Alberta Fire Commission with an investigation into the cause of the fire. Mounties reopened Highway 2 northbound and southbound at about 5 p.m. Wednesday. They had closed the roadway for about four hours because of heavy smoke and potential safety hazards.

Firefighters were set to work overnight Wednesday to keep the blaze contained. By 7 p.m. Wednesday night authorities had cancelled all emergency alerts.

**update as of 8:30 a.m. Thursday: though public warnings on the Alberta emergency alert website were called off by 7 p.m. Wednesday, the MD of Willow Creek was under a state of emergency until Thursday morning.  

Posted on Thursday, January 05, 2012 at 4/18/2014 1:36:47 AM
Source: Marion Warnica, Country 95 News - photo courtesy of Michelle Poelman: resident snapped this photo as she watched water trucks help firefighters
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