Grass fires west of Cochrane and north of Calgary force evacuations, temporarily shut down Highway 1A

High winds on Thursday that spread large grass fires in Cochrane and Calgary have now been contained.  

A grass fire along Highway 1A near Ghost Lake west of Cochrane, Alta., forced the evacuation of homes, a gas plant and a gas station, and affected traffic, causing at least one traffic accident.

WATCH | See the flames on Calgary’s northern edge in the video above

High winds in the area helped spread the fire, which started between Highway 40 near the Ghost Station Gas Bar and the Wild Cat Gas Plant along Highway 1A.

Wind speeds in the area reached a high of 67 km/h on Thursday, though by 7 p.m. the speed was about 46 km/h.

Traffic along Highway 1A is not flowing west of Cochrane and east of Highway 40. Area residents have been told to prepare for evacuation due to a grass fire moving east in the area. (Google Maps)

Some residences in the area, as well as the Ghost Station Gas Bar and the Wild Cat Gas Plant, have been evacuated, Cochrane RCMP said in a release Thursday afternoon.

Michael Werbisky, a Cochrane resident of 25 years, said he and his wife were forced to evacuate their home Thursday afternoon.

He said he noticed the fire at around 11 a.m. that morning in his neighbours field.

“I immediately called 911 and then I started watching as it grew bigger and bigger and bigger,” he said.

“And it was blowing east in a big hurry and heading towards an equestrian centre with homes, people, horses and barns and stuff.”

Fire crews arrived to the scene before any of the buildings were hit by the fire, but Werbisky said the smoke in the area became very thick. 

WATCH | See the damage left by the wildfire west of Cochrane

A grass fire west of Cochrane brought out multiple fire crews. 0:26

At 2:14 p.m., an emergency alert advised residents in the area to be prepared to evacuate their homes on short notice.

Thick smoke was blanketing the area, including portions of Highway 1A, and RCMP say there was one collision due to the reduced visibility.

A grass fire near the Wild Cat Gas Plant along Highway 1A is now under control. (Mike Symington/CBC)

The RCMP blocked Highway 1A  for most of the evening while emergency crews worked.

Transportation Minister Ric McIver tweeted just after 8 p.m. that the highway is now open and the fire is contained in the area. 

He adds that crews will remain their to manage hotspots.

As well, fire bans in Rocky View County have been implemented and are effective immediately, read a release.

Fire in northwest Calgary

McIver posted on Twitter just before 5 p.m., that residents on Mountainview Road, just north of Sage Hill, needed to evacuate their homes.

The Calgary Fire Department said in a release it received reports of a large grass fire at 2 p.m., in the vicinity of 144 Ave. and Shaganappi Trail N.W. 

Fire crews said 16 fire apparatus were dispatched, including bush buggies, tenders and engines, to attack the fire from multiple sides.

A grass fire started in Calgary north of Sage Hill on 144th Avenue N.W. (Trina VanAalst)

According to the release, no buildings were damaged and no injuries have been reported.

The Calgary Police Service tweeted tgar 144th Avenue from Shaganappi Trail to Symons Valley Road N.W. will be closed and that drivers should avoid the area.

Northbound Symons Valley Road to Mountain view Road N.W has also been closed.

There has been no update on whether the roads have opened.

The Calgary grass fire has caused heavy smoke in the area and police have warned drivers to avoid the area nearest the blaze. (Trina VanAalst)

As of Thursday evening, fire crews remained on scene extinguishing hot spots.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown, however the fire department says if those in the immediate area have photos, video or information regarding the cause of the fire, to send them an email.

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