fire tornado
Photo by St. Albert Firefighers

Out-of-control campfire turns into ‘fire tornado’ northwest of Edmonton

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If you ever wondered what can happen when a campfire gets out of control, take a look at this video captured by the St. Albert Fire Department.

Posted on Saturday, the dramatic video shows a firefighter running toward the river bank as swirling winds rip through the fire.

Sparked by an out-of-control campfire, the wildfire started on Thursday near the Sturgeon River, just northwest of Edmonton.

The combination of wind and dry grass made the fire very difficult to control. So much so, in fact, that firefighter Vincent Pashto was forced to jump into the river to escape the heat.

“We’re sitting, waiting for the conditions to change, and a windstorm started up from behind,” he told CBC News. “The little bit of brush that was behind us lit on fire and…created a windmill, almost like a tornado.”

According to reports, Pashko heard his coworkers scream, and when he turned around, there was a storm of ash moving toward him. That’s when he headed toward the water and dove in.

“I was really lucky,” he said. “It’s just one of those things. I was in a safe zone but you just never know when the conditions are going to change.”

But Pashto wasn’t the only one who headed to the river to escape the heat. Local Robert Thorne captured a photo of a cow moose and her calves crossing the water to get to safety.

Photo by Robert Thorne

After about three hours, firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze, but not before it burned about 20 acres of land, displacing wildlife and damaging several wooden power poles in the process.

While no one was hurt, fire prevention and safety officer David Mroz told reporters that the fire could have been prevented.

“It’s quite obvious that it is extreme fire conditions for wildfires out there,” Mroz said.

It’s no coincidence that the province started training for wildfire season a month early this year. According to The Weather Network, Alberta received below-average snow and rainfall in the months leading up to spring, which is bad news after 2015’s dry summer fuelled one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. In Alberta alone, more than 1,800 fires burned nearly 500,000 hectares of land.

To avoid a repeat of last year, the province recommends soaking fires with water to put them out, ensuring the ashes are no longer hot to the touch; checking for any debris that might be caught, heated, and drop to the ground when using an off-road vehicle; and keeping up to date with information about fire bans and closures at albertafirebans.ca.

 

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