Lightning starts wildfire in Banff National Park backcountry

Lightning starts wildfire in Banff National Park backcountry

14 July 2015

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Canada —  A crew from Banff National Park is fighting a wildfire caused by a lightning strike in the Clearwater river valley.

Around 10 a.m. Tuesday, the fire was spotted by an Alpine Helicopters crew as they flew over the north slopes of Snarl Peak in Banff National Park, about 80 kilometres north of the Banff townsite.

It’s approximately five hectares in size, said Dani McIntosh, fire communications officer with Parks Canada.

Due to the fire’s remote location, she said a crew of four firefighters from Banff National Park are using indirect techniques such as ignition and aerial support to contain it.

“There are no crews on the ground,” said McIntosh, noting there are three helicopters helping the effort and two other crews would be arriving from Revelstoke-Glacier and Prince Albert national parks Tuesday night and Wednesday. “The overall goal is to get the fire to the point where we can get crews safe on the ground.”

No one had to be rescued from the backcountry, but there are two groups — a total of eight people — registered as backcountry campers in the larger Clearwater area.

“We’ll do a flyover to ensure they are OK,” she said, noting they aren’t in the immediate vicinity so shouldn’t be affected by the fire.

The area, which does include a random backcountry camping area, is now closed until further notice.

Random camping areas still require a backcountry permit, but allow people to camp a distance of five kilometers or more from the trailhead — provided they are 50 meters off the trail and 70 meters from the nearest water source.

The closure includes the lower Clearwater river valley from the Roaring Creek/Martin Lake junction on the west to the eastern park boundary near Indianhead Creek on the east.

Visitors or residents in Banff aren’t expected to see the fire, but they could experience some smoke or notice the helicopters flying overhead.

A fire ban remains in effect for Banff, Kootenay, Yoho and Jasper national parks.

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