Wildfire burning in southern Alberta foothills west of Nanton being held

WATCH: A wildfire burning near Chain Lakes Provincial Park is now classified as being held. It burned out of control overnight Tuesday, forcing ranchers in the area to evacuate. Jackie Wilson reports.

While the wildfire season is officially over in Alberta, a blaze flared up overnight in the southwestern area of Ranchland #66.

An Alberta Emergency Alert issued early Wednesday morning said the fire was burning on the west side of Highway 22, about two kilometres south of Highway 533.

According to Alberta Wildfire, the out-of-control blaze was about 100 hectares in size — as of 1:41 a.m. — and the cause was still under investigation.

The fire was headed in an easterly direction, fuelled by damaging westerly winds. An Environment Canada wind warning said the gusts could reach 140 km/h along the foothills where the fire is located.

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At first, residents of the rural area between Highway 533 and Chimney Rock Road were asked to evacuate immediately to Nanton, which is about 60 kilometres south of Calgary. A reception centre was set up at the Nanton Community Hall (2204-18 St.)

The critical emergency alert was downgraded to an information alert shortly before 6 a.m., when the province said area residents were no longer at immediate risk.

“Evacuees are safe to return home at this time. Residents in the area between Highway 533 and Chimney Rock Road are on standby to be evacuated again should winds shift. Be prepared to evacuate on short notice,” the updated information said.

The MD of Willow Creek No. 26 said the fire was discovered around 11 p.m. Tuesday, near Chain Lakes Provincial Park.

“Although the fire is classified as out of control, it hasn’t grown in the last few hours. Fire crews from the MD of Willow Creek and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry continue to monitor the fire,” the municipality said in an update on Facebook Wednesday morning, adding the province was sending more resources into the area.

Environment Canada said the winds are expected to remain through the day, weakening in the evening but remaining gusty into Thursday.

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After 4:40 p.m., the fire was classified as being held.

“Residents in the area are no longer on evacuation alert at this time, and there is no immediate risk to the public. Fire resources are still in the area actively responding to the fire. Please be cautious in this area,” Alberta Emergency Alert said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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