A state of local emergency has been declared in the Municipal District of Bighorn, in the foothills west of Calgary near the mountain parks, as a wildfire burns out of control.

As of Tuesday morning, the fire is situated approximately 20 kilometres west of the hamlet of Benchlands.

MD officials say the wildfire originated in the Forest Reserve at Devil's Head, a fire which has been burning for weeks. The province updated the status of the Devil's Head wildfire to 'out of control' on Tuesday.

According to Alberta Emergency Alert, residents in the following regions should prepare to evacuate the area on short notice:

  • Richard's Road
  • Highway 40
  • Summer village of Waiparous
  • Benchlands
  • Richard's and Pears Road
  • Ghost Country Place
  • West Jamieson Road

Residents are encouraged to monitor the Municipal District of Bighorn website for the latest on the state of emergency.

Janice Anderson lives in Benchlands and awoke to the smell of "heavy, heavy smoke" early Tuesday morning before learning of the possible need to leave her home.

"It makes us extremely nervous. I’ve got three dogs at home and it makes you think about what I need to do, where’s my important paperwork, my husband works from home, what do I need to get?"

She says the area has been extremely dry of late, referencing the ongoing fire ban.

Benchlands resident Jeff Gotta says smoke and ash had piled on vehicles miles from the wildfire as a result of Monday night's wind gusts.

"The winds were gusting 50 to 80 kilometres last night and the winds didn’t die down last night until around 10 p.m. and the plume was massive so it worries some people for sure."

Ash was reported in northwest Calgary Tuesday morning, roughly 70 kilometres from the wildfire.

The area around the Devil’s Head wildfire is now closed to the public while #ABWildfire crews fight the wildfire. The forest area closure is approx. 18.5 k ha, east of Banff National Park. The closure will remain in effect until it is safe to reopen the area. pic.twitter.com/JTav4F9y7C

— Alberta Wildfire (@AlbertaWildfire) October 1, 2020