July 17, 2017 4:32 pm
Updated: July 18, 2017 3:10 pm

Fire ban, closures in place in Banff, Kootenay national parks as wildfire burns

Smoke billows in the Rocky Mountains as a wildfire burns in Kootenay National Park.

Contributed/Cory Wagner
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UPDATE: ‘High to extreme’ danger across Alberta, BC parks spurs extension of fire ban

A fire ban is now in place in Banff National Park as Parks Canada crews work to contain a wildfire burning near the continental divide.

READ MORE: Areas of Kootenay and Banff national parks closed due to wildfire

The fire was first detected on Saturday in the Verdant Creek area. It has since extended into Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and has prompted the closures of several popular hiking trails (see map below).

What’s closed?

Kootenay National Park:

  • Area near Verdant Creek
  • South to the Simpson River

Banff National Park:

  • Egypt Lake
  • Healy Pass
  • Citadel Pass
  • Sunshine Village and Meadows – hiking is closed, but gondola and Upper Village are open

Any backcountry camping permits are cancelled for the time being and officials have implemented a fire ban in Banff National Park.

WATCH: Smoke is seen billowing from a wildfire burning in Kootenay and Banff national parks


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“When we institute our closures, for example, we’re actually quite conservative,” Banff National Park Field Supt. Dave McDonough said.

“So we want to ensure that there are no people in that area, should the fire spread [so] we don’t have to worry about people getting lost.”

Banff’s Sunshine Village brought fire extinguishing equipment to the village Monday afternoon.

“Although the Kootenay fire is still a fair distance away, for precautionary measures, we’re working closely with Parks Canada and fire safety experts to bring extinguishing equipment to the village,” the Village said in a Facebook post.

WATCH: Banff National Park Field Supt. Dave McDonough says public safety is always the top priority when dealing with a wildfire

READ MORE: Improvement in Calgary’s air quality, for now

McDonough said Parks Canada officials evacuated hikers from the backcountry on Saturday.

Officials don’t have an estimate yet on the exact size of the fire or how much it has spread. McDonough also couldn’t speak to the level of containment of the fire, as smoke is hindering their efforts to judge the blaze.

He said they are using the terrain to their advantage in this fire fight — the wildfire is burning in a “tight valley” along steep terrain, which is helping to contain the fire.

WATCH: Banff National Park Field Supt. Dave McDonough says Parks Canada implements closures in a preventative way

 

However, McDonough said that comes with its own challenges, as the rugged terrain makes it hard to get bodies on the ground.

About 50 people and five helicopters were managing the fire.

While there are many closures across the parks, McDonough emphasized that residents are safe.

“There is no risk to the community,” he said.

“It’s on the British Columbia side of the continental divide. We’re actively managing it and we will continue to do so.”

 

McDonough added there isn’t any significant risk to wildlife in the area, as animals are used to the “natural phenomenon” of fire.

“They’re able to adapt to that and in the end of the day, fire does open up the canopy and create new habitat for certain wildlife species,” he said. “So wildlife will adjust to this fire.”

The following areas are closed as of 2:25 p.m. Monday:

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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