Canada Waterton residents prepare for potential mandatory evacuation

17:41  09 september  2017
17:41  09 september  2017 Source:   Calgary Herald

Waterton Lakes backcountry closed due to nearby wildfire

  Waterton Lakes backcountry closed due to nearby wildfire A nearby wildfire and an extreme fire hazard have forced Parks Canada to shut down all backcountry use in Waterton Lakes National Park until further notice. The townsite remains open, but all off-trial hiking, scrambling and climbing in the park is prohibited. Crandell campground and all backcountry campgrounds are closed, as is the Red Rock Parkway.Visitors can still access the Cameron Lake day-use area, but any use of the lake is prohibited.

WATERTON — Ted Hill’s Waterton cottage has been a summer home to his family since it was constructed out of chopped up logs in 1926. “We tried to keep it up over the years,” the senior said. “My grandfather built it, and then my dad, and now me.”.

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WATERTON — Ted Hill’s Waterton cottage has been a summer home to his family since it was constructed out of chopped up logs in 1926. 

“We tried to keep it up over the years,” the senior said. “My grandfather built it, and then my dad, and now me.” 

As he stood outside the house Wednesday, Hill pointed to a sprinkler set up on the roof — a safety measure aimed at protecting the property as Waterton residents prepare for potential evacuation.

Waterton Lakes National Park ordered to evacuate as wildfire approaches

  Waterton Lakes National Park ordered to evacuate as wildfire approaches Waterton Lakes National Park ordered to evacuate as wildfire approachesResidents and visitors must leave the area immediately, officials said as the evacuation order was issued Friday afternoon.

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WATERTON , Alta. — A popular national park in the southwestern corner of Alberta was under a mandatory evacuation order "The safety of visitors to Waterton Lakes National Park, residents of Waterton , employees, fire "We've gone from the ' prepare ' to the 'now-it's-time-to-go' stage," he

Officials issued an evacuation alert for Waterton Lakes National Park Tuesday and have closed the park except for the townsite, Highway 5/6 and Chief Mountain Highway, as a wildfire west of Waterton known as the Kenow fire continues to expand. 

At a community information session, dozens of people filled a room in the local community centre to hear the latest from fire and emergency officials. 

“The wind is eventually going to start blowing again, and when that happens this 7,500 hectare fire is going to want to cross the Continental Divide,” Stephen Cornelsen, Parks Canada incident commander for the fire, told attendees.

“One of the expressions we use is we’re one bad burning day away from a major event here.”

Dennis Madsen, resource conservation manager with Waterton Lakes National Park, said officials expect the weather to change at some point, and with that, winds out of the west that will move the fire. 

Alberta town empty except for firefighters

  Alberta town empty except for firefighters WATERTON, Alta. - A town in an Alberta national park that would normally still be teeming with late summer visitors is now empty except for emergency workers who are preparing to save its buildings from a wildfire. "The only people left in town are for firefighting purposes," RCMP Cpl. Curtis Peters said Saturday from the Waterton townsite, a day after Parks Canada ordered the evacuation of Waterton Lakes National Park. "The only people left in town are for firefighting purposes," RCMP Cpl. Curtis Peters said Saturday from the Waterton townsite, a day after Parks Canada ordered the evacuation of Waterton Lakes National Park.

The front landing gear on a twin-engine Cessna collapsed when it was landing at Hammond Northshore Regional Airport Wednesday morning.

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“We don’t know where it’s going to move,” he told Postmedia. “It’s certainly likely to move in to Waterton Lakes National Park, but we don’t know if it’ll actually come down to the community or not. But it may threaten the community, it may threaten the only single access point into the park.”

If Parks Canada does issue a mandatory evacuation notice, Madsen said officials will need to move people out of the park “very, very quickly.”

“Within about an hour of the time people receive the notice, we’re expecting them to be making their way out of the park,” he said. 

Hill said it was concerning to hear of the potential threat to the community.

“I’ve been here all my life — 80 years,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had to worry about a fire. In fact, it’s over 30 years where it’s been this serious.”

He and his family are “kind of partial to this place,” he added, and plan to stay at the log cottage until they are told to evacuate. 

Wildfire has Waterton residents on edge

  Wildfire has Waterton residents on edge WATERTON LAKES NATIONAL PARK, Alta. - Mandy Mulcahy and her fiance Dave Formosa were watching nervously for news as a wildfire spread closer to the Waterton Lakes National Park townsite in southwestern Alberta. The pair work at Vimy's Lounge and Grill — she as a server, he as a sous chef — and have been living in a staff apartment in the small community with their three children since the spring. The pair work at Vimy's Lounge and Grill — she as a server, he as a sous chef — and have been living in a staff apartment in the small community with their three children since the spring.

Waterton resident Ted Hill stands outside the cabin that has been in his family for 80 years. Hill has placed sprinklers on his roof and is preparing to evacuate if an mandatory evacuation order is issued.

Voluntary Evacuation orders are issued when residents should begin preparing for a potential mandatory evacuation order to be issued.Access to the area under a voluntary evacuation order may or may not restricted by a soft or hard closure.

“We want to make sure that we can do everything we can to protect it,” he said. “I’ve got a fast old truck — I can get out of town in a hurry.” 

Edith Becker, a long-time Waterton resident and owner of Gust Gallery, described the current situation as “very frightening.”

She said residents have been on “pins and needles” for the last two days. She has been making arrangements to move the contents of the gallery out of town with trailers.

In the townsite campground, only a few visitors remained on site as thick smoke blanketed the lake and mountains.

Francois and Josée Camirand studied a road map as they tried to figure out where to head next on their journey from Montreal to the Pacific coast. 

“I chose this specific spot because there was the lake and the mountains, but we don’t see anything,” he said.

The smoke prompted a special air quality statement from Environment Canada Wednesday. 

Cornelsen said crews are using helicopters and air tankers in an attempt to prevent the fire, which started with a lightning strike on Aug. 30, from spreading across the Continental Divide. 

“We’re working directly on it to try and stop and slow it down,” he said. 

However, crews are preparing for the possibility that the fire could reach the townsite.

“We’re looking at sprinkler systems all around the townsite, we’re looking at sprinkler pump systems all around the critical park infrastructure,” he said.

“We’re putting this huge effort in place to get ready for the worst-case scenario.”

ycole@postmedia.com

  

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