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Canoe Lake fire under control, crews worked all week on hot spots

‘Precipitation helped’ says fire chief, but still cautious about dangers of fire season
Residents just east of Athabasca would have seen plumes of smoke early Sunday afternoon. Athabasca County said while some outbuildings were lost, no homes burned in the fire, and no injuries were reported.

Athabasca County Fire Services crews were able to get the Canoe Lake fire under control during the morning of April 16, but fire suppression efforts have remained in effect in the area ever since.

The fire, which covered 135.5 hectares or roughly 330 acres, burnt down some farm structures and outbuildings, although no homes were lost. In total, five districts responded to the fire: Colinton, Rochester, Athabasca, Boyle, and Richmond Park.

Athabasca County Fire Services chief Travis Shalapay said unlike the fire at Jackfish Lake last year, where only three districts responded, the nature of the Canoe Lake fire meant the boots on the ground played a big role.

“The location played a big factor in the response, this was more a grass fire type event than a full forest fire,” said Shalapay during an April 18 phone call. “Jackfish Lake we had a three-district response, but unfortunately the fire took off in the forest and ground crews weren’t able to do much.

“In this case, ground crews made the difference, and getting significant resources on it quickly to keep it small was very important.”

The fire was first reported at roughly 12:15 in the afternoon April 14 — the cause of the fire is still under investigation, although Shalapay did add that the evidence so far pointed to it being an accident.

One firefighter injury was reported during suppression efforts, but after being assessed by EMS they were able to return to work. No civilian injuries were reported.

Due to recent weather conditions, the fire is not expected to grow any further, although county public works staff and firefighters will remain on scene putting out ground fires and hot spots, which is expected to take the remainder of the week. Smoke will continue to be visible in the area.

“We were able to get the fire to a held state Monday morning, and by Tuesday afternoon, we were able to declare it under control,” said Shalapay. “We’re seeing the results of significant drought; at Canoe Lake we’re seeing ground fires burning, and a lot of the deadfall trees where the fire is burning from the inside out. The precipitation is a huge help for that, but based off the conditions we have, fires quickly spread and can become a real bear to put out.”

Weather still a concern

The county remains under a Fire Restriction order despite the recent moisture. For more information and for a real-time update, go to

Shalapay said it was important for people to follow the restriction, even if they think that recent rain or snow has done enough to lessen the threat.

“Sometimes we get fooled, we get some snow, we get some rain and everyone thinks things have gotten better,” he said. “We’re just at the beginning of wildfire season and we still have a long stretch to go before everything is greened up.

“Folks need to be really cognizant of their actions and be very cautious when working, recreating, and enjoying the outdoors.”

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