WATERTON, Alta.- A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for part of a southwestern Alberta First Nation because of a wildfire that’s threatening Waterton Lakes National Park.
The Blood Tribe, southwest of Lethbridge, issued the order early Tuesday morning for homes and apartments in Zone 1 of the Blood Reserve, and said residents of Zone 3 should be prepared to leave on short notice.
Evacuees are being asked to register at a multi-purpose building on the reserve.
Blood Tribe fire Chief Oscar Cotton said Zone 1 is in the extreme southwest corner of the reserve.
“There’s probably about 50 homes. What I can tell you is that our evacuation centre has about 100 people,” said Cotton, noting that Zone 3 is farther away from the fire and has about 150 homes. He said smoke is engulfing sections of the community.
The fire chief said the blaze is moving at a very rapid clip.
“At 4:00 (Tuesday morning) it was about five kilometres from the reserve. At the same time Monday it was probably 20 or 30 kilometres.”
Cotton also said there is more than the threat of property damage for reserve residents to worry about.
“The only problem that we really have is the massive amount of smoke we’re getting from that fire,” he said.
People were told to leave Waterton Lakes National Park late last week because of the fire.
Alberta Emergency Services issued a mandatory evacuation order late Monday evening for residents of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9, located 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, the Kenow fire had covered about 114 square kilometres and moved 11.5 kilometres down British Columbia’s Akamina Valley over the past three days.
By Monday night, the fire had become firmly established in the Cameron Valley along the Akamina Parkway.
Officials said there was also fire in the Tamarack Basin which is expected to grow and move into the Blakiston Valley and toward the Red Rock Parkway.
Parks Canada’s Rick Kubian said the fire had the potential to reach the Waterton townsite, though they were hopeful that would not happen.
“That would require really specific alignment of winds and really challenging fire suppression conditions,” he said.
“And so with our fire suppression activities that we have planned and prepared for, we’re hopeful that it would not reach the townsite area in a single operational period, but it is possible.”
Kubian said he’s expecting another two to three days of burning before rainy weather is forecast to sweep in later in the week.
“There is some relief in sight.”