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Monday, September 4, 2017

Encroaching fire results in Waterton Lakes National Park closures

A Fire Ban is in effect in Waterton Lakes National Park due to elevated fire danger. Report any suspicious smoke or campfires to Parks Canada Dispatch at 1-888-WARDENS (1-888-927-3367).

Chris Davis - On Sunday September 3 Parks Canada issued a bulletin announcing the closure of many areas of Waterton Lakes National Park to all traffic and travel due to extreme fire hazard. That hazard has been exacerbated by the Kenow Mountain area fire just west of Waterton Lakes in southeast British Columbia's Flathead Valley. That fire was at the Waterton boundary on Sunday at Sage Pass and South Kootenay Pass. Lightning is the suspected cause. According to an updated bulletin issued this evening, September 5, "Parks Canada first spotted the fire from the air when it was five hectares in size on August 30th in the Kishinena Creek area of British Columbia’s Flathead Valley. On September 2, during a period of hot weather and high winds, the fire expanded east 7 kilometres towards Waterton Lakes National Park. The fire has since grown to approximately 4,500 hectares."

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Parks Canada update at 6:52 pm September 4:

Parks Canada is actively managing parts of the Kenow Fire that have the potential to impact Waterton Lakes National Park.

The fire is primarily in British Columbia but is igniting spot fires in Waterton Lakes National Park at the park’s northwestern boundary near Sage Pass. Today, two helicopters are directly bucketing water to suppress these spot fires. There is about 0.5 hectares of fire in the park at this time.

A Parks Canada national incident management team is on site in the national park, along with three initial attack crews and five helicopters. The fire management team is assessing containment options, and crews are working on facility protection, using water pumps and sprinklers. Additional fire management resources are en route to the park.

There is no evacuation alert at this time. The incident is a dynamic situation that could change at any time.

Closures are in effect for Red Rock Parkway, Crandell Campground, all backcountry campgrounds, all visitor use of Cameron Lake, and all hiking trails, with the exceptions below. All off trail hiking/scrambling/climbing in the park is prohibited.

Open hiking trails are the Townsite and Kootenai Brown Trail, Linnet Lake Trail, Bear’s Hump Trail, Bertha Falls/Bertha Lake Trail, Lakeshore Trail, Horseshoe Basin/Oil Basin Loop Trail, Wishbone Trail, Vimy Trail, Crypt Lake/Hell Roaring Falls Trail.

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Pincher Creek Emergency Services is part of the coordinated response.

Smoke from fires in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia has had a considerable negative effect on air quality in the region.
Akamina Parkway and Cameron Lake Day-Use Area remain open at this time; however, Cameron Lake is closed to any visitor use.

Waterton Lakes National Park closure map
Please note that this information may change at any time.   We will update this story as necessary in the coming days.

Violators may be charged under the Canada National Parks Act to a maximum penalty of $25,000.

At 10:00 am Monday September 4 (updated) Wildfire Alberta reported Alberta's Fire Danger Ratings to be low in west central Alberta, moderate to high in the boreal zones, and high to extreme in the southern east slopes/mountain parks (which includes Waterton).

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Update from PCES Chief Dave Cox

According to Pincher Creek Emergency Services Chief Dave Cox "There's a forest closure going on, which means that anybody who doesn't live up there, won't be able to go in there. The only way you will be able to go into the forest protection area will be on a permit. If you live there, you will be able to get a permit." Cox said permitted access will include residents and approved industrial. He added he believes an RCMP officer is restricting traffic traveling west of Beaver Mines. "I believe Alberta Parks has done an evacuation of everybody in there, campers and such."

A trailer office for permitting will be set up in the Pincher Creek Emergency Services parking lot in Pincher Creek (655 Charlotte Street, Pincher Creek) on Tuesday morning September 5. Chief Cox was unsure if it would be remaining at that location for the duration of this event. We will update that information as necessary.

"As a precautionary measure, Pincher Creek Emergency Services is developing a structure protection plan for the Castle Resort," said Cox. He added that is a first step, then the plan will "extend outward" in coordination with Agriculture and Forestry.

"There is a lot more planning going on in Waterton, looking at doing more or less what we are doing," said Cox. "They are developing a structure protection plan, they have done some back country evacuations, and I do know they are looking at the possibility of doing an evacuation of the town of Waterton." This plan also includes transportation capabilities. "The reality is that is a ways away. If they are going to do an evacuation they would probably an evacuation alert." Cox said the last time a state of emergency was declared for Waterton the reception center was in Cardston.

Chief Cox said it is always a good idea to have a 72 hour emergency kit ready (click here for more information). He suggested people have prepared a collection of "The stuff that is important to you, that you can't lose," including essential papers and medication.

There is no plan or perceived need to plan for an evacuation of Pincher Creek at this time.

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Fire Protection Areas, access permits, and travel information from Alberta Emergency Alert

Due to the concern for public safety, and the dangerous wildfire conditions in Southwest Alberta, the Province has closed the Fire Protection Areas to public entry for the area south of Highway 532 to the US border and west to the BC border. These areas are referred to as Fire Control Zones 1, 2, & 3. Highway 532 is just north of Chain Lakes on Highway 22. Highways 22 & 3 remain open for traffic.

Highway 532 is approximately 1 kilometer north of Chain Lakes and approximately 25 kilometers south of Longview, Alberta on Highway 22. 

Highway 22 and Highway 3 are completely open for all traffic.

If anyone from the public believes that they need access to any of the Public Lands in Fire Zones 1, 2, and 3, limited access may be granted by permit at the following locations: 
  • Calgary Fire Centre - 8660 Bearspaw Dam Rd. NW, Calgary, AB 
  • Chain Lakes Provincial Park Administrative Building - Twp. Rd. 144A, Highway 22, Longview, AB
  • Blairmore Ranger Station - 11901 19 Ave., Blairmore, AB 
  • Pincher Creek Emergency Services - 655 Charlotte St., Pincher Creek, AB

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Joint planning for British Columbia wildfire response 

According to a Government of Canada press release, Federal and British Columbia ministers, First Nations representatives, and Canadian Red Cross representatives will meet on September 5 "to discuss joint efforts to respond, recover and rebuild from the devastating wildfires" in British Columbia.

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Southern Alberta Fire Bans

Screencap from www.albertafirebans.ca on September 4, 2017


Fire Bans are in effect for most or all of southern Alberta at this time. From Alberta Fire Bans: The above normal temperatures we've experienced continue to create the potential for fire starts and extreme fire behavior. The above normal temperatures are forecasted to continue. The heat and curing will dry grass and other fuel more. Use caution in all operations.  Starts can be expected during normal harvest operations. Off road vehicles (quads) may start a fire.

If you have a fire start or see a fire call 911 quickly. We have a better chance if we can catch a fire small.

MD OF PINCHER CREEK - ALL FIRES ARE BANNED
Fire pit permits are suspended until further notice

TOWN OF OF PINCHER CREEK - ALL FIRES ARE BANNED
Fire pit permits are suspended until further notice

PIIKANI FIRST NATION - ALL FIRES ARE BANNED

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Calgary Forest Area Advisory

Agriculture and Forestry Fire Behaviour Advisory 
Issued September 03, 2017

Fire danger values will continue to climb for the Calgary Forest Area for today’s advisory period. Four Calgary weather stations are reporting Build Up Indices (BUI’s) now greater than 200 and two more will probably join them within the next 2 to 3 days. An upper ridge is again building over the Province that will continue the warm temperatures, low humidity’s and brisk winds that have been experienced there for the last number of weeks. A surface high over east central Alberta during today’s advisory period will bring upslope (east) winds which will elevate humidity’s up somewhat over the Crow region but no precipitation is expected south of Calgary, with a chance of showers north of Calgary. After this, a cold front approaching from BC will spike the Fire Weather Index (FWI) values by Thursday. Easy burning conditions with fast rates of spread and very intense crown fire continue to be in effect over the most if not all of the Calgary Forest Area. The forest fire conditions are highlighted by fires burning close to the CFA in southeastern BC which have exhibited large late evening runs.


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British Columbia, Canada, and U.S.A. wildfire maps

Canadian Wildland Fire Information System map of national wildfire risks (September 4, 2017)

  • Red (Extreme): Fast-spreading, high-intensity crown fire. Very difficult to control. Suppression actions limited to flanks, with only indirect actions possible against the fire's head.
  • Orange (Very High): High-intensity fire with partial to full crown involvement. Head fire conditions beyond the ability of ground crews; air attack with retardant required to effectively attack fire's head.
September 4 screencap of U.S.A. Wildfire Activity Public Information Map from disasterresponse.maps.arcgis.com

Wildfires in British Columbia:

A screencap of the BC Wildfire Service Active Wildfire Map at 2:00 pm September 4.

There were 141 wildfires in British Columbia larger than 0.01 hectares as of midnight September 3.

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