Extreme winds wreak havoc across southern prairies

Smoke-filled sky viewed from near Lemsford, SK (courtesy Jim Hale)

Extreme winds caused fires to burn out of control, destroying several farmyards and prompting evacuations in multiple communities in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan on Tuesday and into Wednesday.

There was also tragedy, as a volunteer firefighter died fighting a wildfire near Hilda, AB. Cypress County confirmed James Hargrave of the Walsh Fire Department died in the line of duty on Tuesday night. Hargrave was a young rancher, who served as a director-at-large for the Western Stock Growers Association and a former delegate for Alberta Beef Producers. (A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist his family.)

With an intense low pressure system tracking east, much of the prairie region was or still is under a wind warning issued by Environment Canada, with wind gusts exceeding 100km/h in many areas.

Follow these links for the latest emergency alerts and mandatory evacuations:

In southern Alberta, there were evacuation notices or states of emergency declared due to wildfires near Acadia Valley, Airdrie, Coleman, Empress, Gleichen/Strathmore, Hilda, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Wheatland County and the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass. In Saskatchewan, the town of Burstall, the RM of Deerforks and town of Leader were all evacuated and Highway 21 was closed.

Some of the evacuation notices have since been lifted. Fortunately there was also some rain in some areas overnight, helping mitigate the fire risk.

Some photos of the fires and damage caused by the extreme winds:


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