Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Forest area closures update

Forest Area Closure map (Alberta Government)

Chris Davis - Forestry area closures announced yesterday are still in effect for the Calgary Forest Area, south of Highway 532 to the US border and west to the BC border,  Alberta Fire Control Zones 1, 2, and 3, including Waterton Lakes National Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park. Highway 532 is just north of Chain Lakes and intersects with Highway 22. Highway 22 and Highway 3 remain open for traffic. Pincher Creek Emergency Services is conducting a risk appraisal at this time.  No evacuations have been ordered, but access to most affected areas is restricted to those with permits, with the exception of the communities of Hazell, Sentinel, Tecumseh, Coleman, Bushtown, Blairmore, Frank, Hillcrest Mines, Bellevue, and Burmis.  Click here for a list of locations to obtain an access permit. 

According to Alberta Fire Bans "A Fire Ban and OHV Restriction remain in effect for the rest of the Calgary Forest Area. The Forest Area Closure will remain in effect until conditions improve."

Parks Canada reports the fire was first spotted from the air when it was five hectares in size on August 30 in the Kishinena Creek/ Kenow Mountain area of British Columbia’s Flathead Valley.  Lightning is the suspected cause.  The fire expanded east towards Waterton Lakes National Park on September 2, during a period of hot weather and high winds, Yesterday afternoon Castle Mountain Resort management and staff met with officials from Wildfire AB, the Department of Environment and Parks, as well as officials from the Department of Agriculture and Forestry for the province of Alberta, following which the closure of Castle Wildland Provincial Park was announced.

According to Pincher Creek Emergency Services Chief Dave Cox earlier today, "As Emergency Services we are not only looking at setting up structure protection at the Castle Resort, we are doing an assessment on other values at risk all the way from Waterton Park, working our way north." This means looking at all of the structures in the area, how prepared they are, placement, and risk factors. The response is under the umbrella of the Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission. Cox said the fire was still in British Columbia this morning, "With a little bit of extension into Waterton Park."

Cox said plans are in place for an evacuation of Waterton Lakes National Park should that become necessary. As stated by Parks Canada in a recent bulletin, there is no evacuation alert at this time. The incident is a dynamic situation that could change at any time.

According to Chief Cox, "The forestry closure affects more than just the forest reserve. It affects residents, ranchers, and others within the forest protection area."  He said the response to the situation will be driven by what happens with the weather and how it affects the fire.  "We might get a break with east, and northeast winds, but our challenge is going to be when the wind switches to the west."
Chief Cox said it was likely that the fire is now larger than the last official estimate of approximately 4,500 hectares.  "It's bigger than that."

If you're found to be carrying on any unauthorized activity or operating any equipment within the forest closure area you may be subject to a fine of $287 to $575.  If you're found responsible for interfering with wildfire operations you face a mandatory court appearance.

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