EDMONTON — Jasper National Park officials said Monday the Excelsior wildfire burning near the Jasper townsite is officially considered under control.
Crews continued to create a barrier around the edge of the wildfire on the weekend. They said they have “well over half of the fire” contained.
Still, Parks Canada said the fire is still burning deep into the ground, despite the rain the area received recently.
“The Excelsior Wildfire here in Jasper National Park in the Maligne Valley actually received significant rain a few days ago so crews are making really good progress towards building a perimeter around this wildfire to fully contain it,” Parks Canada spokeswoman Kim Weir explained Sunday.
“The fire has not grown over the last number of days,” she said, “however the fire has burned extremely deep.”
Last Saturday, Parks Canada said the size of the wildfire was 1,000 hectares.
“So, the rain has definitely minimized spread and, while we have possibly a wetter layer on the upper layer of the soil, when we dig down underneath that layer and down into the deeper flammable layers, we are still noticing areas of significant heat, so some significant hot spots. This fire has really dug in.”
That depth is making extinguishing the fire a little more difficult. Crews are using an infra-red scanner to help find hot spots. The next step will be to complete the perimeter around the wildfire.
“Once we have no more hot spots in that perimeter we will know that the Excelsior Wildfire is completely contained,” Weir said. “That doesn’t mean that the wildfire will stop burning but that means that the wildfire will stop growing.”
Parks Canada said there was “little to no smoke” in the Athabasca Valley. When the wildfire started, there was heavy smoke in the park and in the Town of Jasper.
The Maligne Road beyond Maligne Canyon Wilderness Hostel remained closed. Officials expected conditions would allow for it to be reopened for next weekend.
“Part of the Maligne Road has opened up again,” said Weir. “As of a few mornings ago, the area in the Maligne Valley up to and including the Maligne Hostel reopened, so this means all of the Maligne Canyon facilities including the Maligne Hostel and all of the trails below the hostel are now open for use.
“But the rest of the Maligne Road – so the upper Maligne Valley – actually remains closed.”
Getting the remaining part of the road re-opened is a top priority for Parks Canada, said Weir. The group said that portion of road will only re-openwhen stabilization measures to keep motorists safe from falling rocks and debris are complete and the slopes are safe.
The Excelsior Wildfire – which was sparked by lightning – was reported July 9. It is burning about 15 kilometres southeast of the Town of Jasper.
As of Sunday morning, there were 89 wildfires burning in Alberta, eight of which were classified as out of control.
*Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Sunday, July 19, 2015. It was updated at 4:56 p.m. MT Monday, July 20 to state the fire is now under control.