Canada Kenow wildfire burns north through park and beyond, but Waterton townsite spared

17:35  13 september  2017
17:35  13 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.

Lashing at the western boundaries of Waterton Lakes National Park since Friday, the Kenow wildfire ’s devastating journey across the continental divide tore a fiery path through the beloved southwestern Alberta park — mercifully sparing much of the townsite but broke north along the entrance highway.

Kenow wildfire burns north through park and beyond , but Waterton townsite spared . PINCHER CREEK — It was the scenario everybody prepared for but hoped would never Fortney: Residents count blessings while waiting out Waterton wildfire threat.

Photo showing a burned Rocking Heart Ranch located in Waterton Lakes National Park. According to twitter accounts, the Ranch house, barn and riding arena were all destroyed by wildfire. © Sierra Garner/ Twitter @SierraGarner7 CALGARY HERALD Photo showing a burned Rocking Heart Ranch located in Waterton Lakes National Park. According to twitter accounts, the Ranch house, barn and riding arena were all destroyed by wildfire. PINCHER CREEK — It was the scenario everybody prepared for but hoped would never happen.

Lashing at the western boundaries of Waterton Lakes National Park since Friday, the Kenow wildfire’s devastating journey across the continental divide tore a fiery path through the beloved southwestern Alberta park — mercifully sparing much of the townsite but broke north along the entrance highway.

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.

Kenow wildfire burns north through park and beyond , but Waterton townsite spared . PINCHER CREEK — It was the scenario everybody prepared for but hoped would never Fortney: Residents count blessings while waiting out Waterton wildfire threat.

Kenow wildfire burns north through park and beyond , but Waterton townsite spared . PINCHER CREEK — It was the scenario everybody prepared for but hoped would never Fortney: Residents count blessings while waiting out Waterton wildfire threat.

Fed by dry grasses withered brown by a hot and dry summer, the blaze set alight the visitor’s centre just north of the townsite before moving north to the park entrance gate along Highway 6.

From there, the fire spread out along Highway 6 in both directions — east into Cardston County and the Blood reserve, and west into the Municipal District of Pincher Creek. It was a fire that deputy chief of Pincher Creek emergency services Pat Neumann said behaved in ways he’d never seen before.

“It was really something,” he said. “It was so risky … even just being near the fire — well, you just couldn’t.

“It was running over highways, there were 40-foot (12-metre) flames in some places, you could see it running up the sides of mountains and across fields.” Pincher Creek was joined by fire crews from Cardston Monday night when calls about the fire came in.

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.

Kenow wildfire burns north through park and beyond , but Waterton townsite spared . PINCHER CREEK — It was the scenario everybody prepared for but hoped would never Fortney: Residents count blessings while waiting out Waterton wildfire threat.

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Realizing what they were facing, they were joined by RCMP and park wardens from Waterton knocking on doors of properties within the danger zone and ordering them to safety. Initially established near Township Road 3-0 about six kilometres north of the Waterton park boundary, swiftly advancing flames prompted emergency crews to keep moving the line another 10 kilometres north to the tiny hamlet of Twin Butte.

That was again moved a little after 1 a.m. to Highway 505, where the evacuation zone currently stands.

As the sun rose Tuesday morning, a fleet of water bombers began a ceaseless aerial attack on the flames, by then burning along the eastern edges of the Castle Wildlands, prompting more evacuations.

“We’ve still got fire burning east and west of Highway 6, north of the Waterton park boundary … as far as Township Road 3-0,” Neumann said Tuesday afternoon.

“What the fire does is ‘finger out’ — it’s not like a field fire that burns an entire field. What you get are fingers that run out and kinda sneak in behind things — the only way to fight it is get up and fly, and use thermal (imaging) to track down exactly where that fire extended to.” While no official damage statistics were available at press time, property and homes were damaged and even destroyed in the fire.

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.

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WATCH: The Kenow Mountain wildfire is moving closer to Waterton Lakes National Parks . Crews work to prevent wildfire from spreading through Waterton Lakes’ Akamina Pass. Waterton park and townsite under mandatory evacuation due to wildfire .

Meanwhile, inside Waterton, 60 firefighters from six southern Alberta fire departments worked all night to protect the townsite from flames and a ceaseless shower of burning embers blown onto homes and buildings.

Firefighters from both Calgary and Taber had the daunting task of protecting the venerable Prince of Wales Hotel, a wood-framed structure as flammable as it is majestic. Calgary fire Chief Steve Dongworth described a hectic night facing down the massive blaze as it surged into the townsite.

“To me, watching the fire coming down the valley at pace would have been very intimidating, and when the fire did arrive, it was very close,” he said, noting the crew worked in excess of 24 hours.

“The building is unscathed to the best of my knowledge.” The hotel’s location, surrounded by grassland instead of forest, also helped keep it safe, said the chief. Calgary crews were able to quickly snuff flying embers from the wildfire — some the size of baseballs — which posed the greatest danger to the structure, Dongworth said.

“We had a solid plan in place and we told them, ‘Although the structures are valuable, none of them are more valuable than the lives of any of our people,'” he said. In all, 135 wildland firefighters are working inside Waterton park, assisted by nine Alberta air tankers and 14 helicopters.

An additional 125 firefighters and 23 helicopters are standing by to lend a hand if needed. Officials had stated from the outset that weather will be the biggest factor in how far and how long the fire will burn. “Conditions today have been decent,” Neumann said.

“We’ve had very mild winds and cooler temperatures — that’s been a big help to us.” An incoming cold front is expected to bring both cooler temperatures and precipitation for the balance of the week, which crews hope will swing the balance back to their favour. “Any time we can get our relative humidity up and our temperatures down,” he said.

“I mean, fire still burns — it just tends to slow down.”

bpassifiume@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume

'It's gone, everything's ash': Alipine Stables destroyed by Waterton fire .
'It's gone, everything's ash': Alipine Stables destroyed by Waterton fireIt’s the only place that Jenika Watson has ever thought of as home, and now officials have confirmed that Alpine Stables were destroyed this week when the Kenow Fire tore through parts of Waterton Lakes National Park.

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