CANADA – The wildfire in Kootenay National Park continues to grow and is now almost half the size of Cochrane, Alta.
The fire in the park — which stretches from the Alberta border to Radium, B.C., on the Western slopes of the Rocky Mountains — had reached 1,420 hectares in size by Wednesday afternoon.
It’s being battled by 120 firefighters using 11 helicopters and two pieces of heavy equipment, according to an update from Parks Canada.
A lack of rain in the immediate forecast, coupled with warm temperatures and low humidity, means it could continue to grow.
That means Highway 93 South — a popular route for many Albertans heading to southeastern B.C. — will remain closed.
“We’re doing everything we can to get that highway open as soon as possible, but what we need to do is make sure it’s safe to do so first,” said Jed Cochrane with Parks Canada.
For Meredith Chatelain, the fire isn’t just frustrating, it’s costing her precious income.
“The timing couldn’t be worse,” said the co-owner of Kootenay Park Lodge.
The popular vacation spot was supposed to have been busy over the August long weekend, with Vancouver singer Dan Mangan set to perform.
The fire forced it to be cancelled, however.
“It was heartbreaking how it affected our guests and the people coming to the concert as well,” said Chatelain.
Last year, it was the same story, with the area evacuated due to nearby wildfires.
All trails, backcountry campgrounds and day-use areas remain closed from Rockwall trail south to Dolly Varden trail, including the Prospectors Valley area and Crooks Meadow Campground.
More information on the closures can be found online.
Some areas are still accessible.
Columbia Valley communities remain open for business. The north and south ends of Kootenay National Park are open from Castle Junction to Paint Pots and from Radium Hot Springs to McLeod Meadows including Radium Hot Pools, Storm Mountain and Shadow Lake lodges, according to an update from Parks Canada.
There is no word on when Highway 93 South will reopen.
Air quality alerts
Smoke from that fire, and several others burning across B.C., have resulted in an air quality alert being issued for Calgary and most of Alberta.
Environment Canada Meteorologist John Paul Cragg says the combination of smoke from wildfires and a high-pressure system will leave us under a blanket of haze for the next few days.
“That area of high pressure is helping to mix that smoke down from the upper levels of the atmosphere to the ground and spread that smoke out and around. So really it’s all of Alberta that’s seeing these hazy conditions and the reduction of air quality, though some areas are seeing it worse than others.”
Calgary’s air quality risk is at “moderate” for now.
Cragg says that can shift quickly, and there is a good chance it’ll change to “high risk” by the weekend.
A burning ban was also issued for the Municipal District of Foothills and the Village of Longview, which includes all open fires, burning barrels, campfires and fireworks.
The ban will remain in effect until all areas in the MD of Foothills receive substantial moisture and approval is received to lift the fire ban.