Firefighters hope to steer blaze away from national park by setting smaller fires

By on September 10, 2017


FILE: Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. (Photo: David Restivo, NPS via GlacierNPS/Flickr, Public Domain)
FILE: Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. (Photo: David Restivo, NPS via GlacierNPS/Flickr, Public Domain)

WATERTON, Alta.—Firefighters are planning to ignite small fires to coax a large wildfire away from the boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.

Parks Canada said Sunday that crews will conduct an aerial ignition in the Akamina Valley near the park in order to steer the Kenow fire, and embers from it, from heading toward Waterton if weather conditions allow.

John Stoesser, a fire information officer with Parks Canada, explains the smaller fires are meant to counter the effects of the prevailing wind by drawing air away from where the fire is headed.

“In conditions like this, though, when it’s quite windy, the effectiveness isn’t as high as if it was a little bit calmer and the smoke from that fire was going straight up in the air,” Stoesser explained.

“It’s something that we would only do under safe conditions. We wouldn’t put our crew at risk to do that and we wouldn’t put any other facilities under risk.”

The Kenow blaze has burned for over a week in British Columbia near the boundary with Alberta and was estimated Sunday to be approximately 9,400 hectares in size.

The park and the Waterton townsite were evacuated Friday.

Strong winds continued to make efforts to battle the blaze difficult on Sunday, and three spot fires broke out in the Tamarack Basin, south of Festubert Mountain in Waterton. Helicopters dumped water on those fires, Park Canada said, but noted the intense fire and smoke is hampering visibility and fire suppression.

Meanwhile, firefighters from throughout southern Alberta continued their preparations to defend the Waterton townsite, where a pump and sprinkler system has been established on the town’s perimeter.

Stoesser said weather conditions are expected to continue to hamper firefighting efforts in the couple days.