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Evacuation orders mount as wildfire spreads in southwestern Alberta – CP

by pmnationtalk on September 12, 201740 Views

Source: The Canadian Press
Sep 12, 2017 14:03

WATERTON, Alta. _ A wildfire that Parks Canada says has spread to various spots in Waterton Lakes National Park has prompted evacuation orders in some surrounding areas.

The Blood Tribe, a First Nations community southwest of Lethbridge, ordered everyone out early Tuesday from homes and apartments in the extreme southwest corner of the reserve.

“There’s probably about 50 homes,” said Blood Tribe fire Chief Oscar Cotton. “What I can tell you is that our evacuation centre has about 100 people.”

Residents of about 150 homes in another area of the reserve, further away from the fire, were told to be prepared to leave on short notice. Cotton said the blaze was moving rapidly.

“At 4 a.m. (Tuesday morning) it was about five kilometres from the reserve. At the same time Monday, it was probably 20 or 30 kilometres.”

Property damage isn’t the only concern, Cotton said.

“The only problem that we really have is the massive amount of smoke we’re getting from that fire,” he said.

Lockey Craig, who has property just east of the park on the Belly River, drove down with his wife from Calgary on Monday night when it looked like the situation was worsening.

They managed to load some photo albums and other keepsakes into his vehicle before the area was put under an evacuation order late Monday night. Craig figures he got 2 1/2 hours of sleep at a niece’s house in nearby Cardston.

He said when he was at his property, he could see smoke billowing out from the mountains in the park and there was ash falling from the sky.

“We live at least 10 kilometres away from the (park) gate and it looked like it was snowing last night through the night as we were loading stuff up.”

Craig is the president of Waymarker Hospitality, which owns several hotels and restaurants within the park’s townsite. He said rumours have been flying about which buildings have been burned and which have been spared.

“It is what it is. I’m very sad about what’s happened,” he said. “I’m very sad about the whole backcountry. Nothing we can do, though.”

People were told to leave Waterton Lakes National Park late last week because of the fire.

Parks Canada said the fire firmly established itself in the park on Monday afternoon and was visible from the townsite in the evening.

“At this time, the majority of the townsite appears to be intact,” Parks Canada said around mid-day Tuesday. “Extensive fire protection measures were effective in safeguarding the majority of infrastructure and facilities within the community and at the Prince of Wales hotel.”

It said elsewhere in the park, infrastructure has been compromised.

Alberta Emergency Services issued a mandatory evacuation order late Monday evening for residents of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 just north of the park.

As well, nearby Cardston County declared a state of emergency and told residents to head to the civic centre in the town of Cardston.

Parks Canada said as of Monday afternoon, the Kenow fire covered about 114 square kilometres.

Parks Canada’s Rick Kubian said at the time the fire had the potential to reach the Waterton townsite, though officials were hopeful that would not happen. He said he was expecting another two to three days of burning before rainy weather forecast to sweep in later in the week.

“There is some relief in sight.”

_ By Lauren Krugel in Calgary and Ken Trimble in Edmonton

INDEX: NATIONAL DISASTER

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