Firefighting crews from Calgary are playing a critical role in fighting the fast-moving and devastating Kenow Mountain wildfire that’s burning in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Calgary Fire Department Chief Steve Dongworth said Tuesday three separate relief crews have been sent south to help protect the Waterton townsite.
“Their mission is to protect the Prince of Wales Hotel, as well as a couple of other historical buildings in that area,” Dongworth said.
“We just deployed another crew this morning to replace the ones down there, I think we’re up to 51 people who have been deployed to date, which is three groups of 17 personnel.”
The wildfire spread into the park and toward the townsite Monday afternoon, prompting several local states of emergency and evacuations of communities in the area. Several roads in the area have also been closed.
On Tuesday, Parks Canada said the townsite was still intact, however a number of buildings outside the town were destroyed. Premier Rachel Notley confirmed the park’s main visitor centre was lost to the fire.
While fire officials don’t yet know the exact size of the fire, Dongworth said they haven’t been asked to send more resources other than the request for relief.
WATCH: Global Photographer Tim Lee captured these images as water bombers continue to fly overheard, attacking the wildfire in Waterton Lakes National Park.
“Our role is critical,” he said. “Initially we were told to be prepared to be there for a week or maybe a little more and we still see that as being kind of the time frame.”
The crews of firefighters have been switching out every three days, Dongworth said, adding that the crews are using three pieces of heavy apparatus including aerial ladders and an engine.
He said the department is ready to send more if Parks Canada asks.
Working in firefighters’ favour, Dongworth said, is the fact that crews were sent to the area ahead of the fire reaching the park.
“To have that opportunity to prepare — to even do some preventative work, in terms of wetting down some areas, putting foam on some areas — has been a tremendous benefit,” he said.
The challenging weather conditions in the region that have caused the fire to spread quickly and made it hard for firefighters to contain are expected to last at least another day.
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