SHERIDAN — Firefighters from the Sheridan area were sent to assist with fires located in the province of Alberta, Canada, this week.
Jon Warder, U.S. Forest Service fire management officer, said firefighters heading north are employees of the Bighorn National Forest, Shoshoni National Forest and Wind River-Big Horn Basin District of the Bureau of Land Management. The crew drove to Denver on Tuesday to meet up with four other crews. The crews flew to Alberta the following day and will be stationed there for 14-21 days.
The crew is a type two initial attack handcrew made up of 20 people. They will be outfitted with tools and chainsaws once they arrive, Warder said.
While in Alberta, the crew will construct fire lines, burn out fuels and secure fire lines, Warder said.
Warder said firefighters are being sent up to Canada because each country only has so many resources that can be utilized and Canada has reached its limit.
Warder said Canada may also send firefighters to help U.S. crews when they are stretched thin.
According to the National Interagency Coordination Center Incident Management Situation Report published Friday, Alberta has experienced 722 fires that have burned 802,392 hectares so far this year. One hectare is equal to 2.47 acres.
Alberta experienced a drought from March through May resulting in drier than normal conditions, said Derek Gagnon, public information officer with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Department. Alberta currently has 13 fires burning in the province.
The Chuckegg Creek wildfire is the only one not considered controlled as of Friday; it’s burned about 334,000 hectares. Gagnon said the plan was to send the incoming firefighters to assist with that fire.
The area being burned contains mostly spruce trees along with wetland areas. Gagnon said the top may be wet but the dry conditions have left the soil underneath the surface dry.
The size of the fire has made it difficult to contain. From north to south the fire stretches roughly 100 kilometers, 62 miles, at its longest point Gagnon said, creating a bigger fire perimeter for crews to build.
Communities have not evacuated yet, but they are on standby.
According to an update by the Alberta government Thursday, there are currently 1,127 wildland firefighters and support staff fighting the fire; 46 helicopters and 123 pieces of heavy equipment are also being utilized. Helicopters and air tankers are being working to limit the spread of the fire.