September 13, 2017 1:17 pm
Updated: September 14, 2017 8:21 am

Waterton wildfire Wednesday: Townsite ‘not in jeopardy’ but 5 homes lost in M.D. of Pincher Creek

WATCH: Global's Jill Croteau shot this footage on Highway 6 driving toward the Waterton village turnoff inside Waterton Lakes National Park

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A 44,000-hectare wildfire in Waterton Lakes National Park remained out of control on Wednesday, but officials said the townsite is not under direct threat of the fire. Five Alberta families have lost their homes and Twin Butte residents are being allowed through the police roadblocks to assess damage to their properties for two-hour periods.

The government said a telephone town hall will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. for affected residents to “receive important information on the wildfire.”

Dial 1-877-229-8493 and use access code 115500 to participate.

For information on the current status of Alberta wildfires, click here. For B.C. wildfires, click here.

A panoramic shot from a lookout about 6 km from the Waterton village turnoff, showing a first look at Waterton since the wildfire burned through. Sept. 13, 2017.

Nate Luit / Global News

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The mandatory evacuation order had been lifted for the Blood Tribe reserve residents, according to a 5 p.m. release from the Alberta government.

“The fire didn’t come on the reserve,” spokesperson Rick Tail Feathers told Global News. “It was like three to four kilometres from the boundary on the reserve. And the fire crew was there; they had it all watered down in case it came.”

The government said the Kenow wildfire had spread outside the park into Cardston County and the M.D. of Pincher Creek, but lower temperatures and higher relative humidity mean conditions for firefighting have improved.

WATCH: Being on the front lines of a devastating wildfire is draining both physically and emotionally, not only for the people on the ground but for their families left to worry about their loved ones safety. Joe Scarpelli reports.

“A combination of things helped protect the Waterton townsite: the sprinkler system held out very well,” Parks Canada spokesperson John Stoesser said. “We had a number of days to plan that and prepare that protection around the townsite. There was lots of work done preparing for that in terms of vegetation removal, too, and lots of planning done over the years… and the actions on the ground.

“There’s been some strengthening of containment lines around the townsite that is pretty much fully protected by a kind of a black burn-off line. All of that vegetation has been removed. It’s also been removed further down the Waterton Lakes to further protect the townsite.”

An assessment was still underway for other damage within Waterton; officials have only confirmed the visitor centre was lost to the blaze.

Watch below: Global’s Katelyn Wilson updates the southern Alberta wildfire situation

The government said Fortis was working to restore power to about 421 affected customers as of 2:30 p.m. You can contact 310-9473 for more information.

Highways within Waterton Lakes National Park are closed due to wildfire activity (Highways 5, 6 and Chief Mountain border crossing). Highway 5 east of Waterton Lakes National Park to Highway 800 as well as Highway 6 north of Waterton Lakes National Park to Highway 505 were also closed to the public.

The following highways are closed to the public, with the exception of permit holders:

  • Highway 532, west of Highway 22
  • Highway 520, east of Highway 22 for approximately 12 kilometres
  • Highway 774, from Highway 507 to Castle Provincial Park

Pincher Creek damage

Just north of the park in the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, five homes were lost and 283 residents had registered with the reception centre as the state of local emergency remained in place.

Five residences, five outbuildings, two large sheds, one bridge on private property, fence lines, hay and some power lines were lost to the fire, according to emergency management officials.

Watch below: Parks Canada’s John Stoesser explains although crews have made progress, the Kenow Mountain wildfire is still active.

“Anyone in the M.D. of Pincher Creek who did lose their home has been notified by the RCMP,” Cpl. Curtis Peters said. “As of right now, no other houses have been lost.

“Anyone still wondering should be able to have a sigh of relief that if they haven’t spoken to us, their houses are OK.”

WATCH: Albertans are asking how they can help the hundreds of people displaced by the Kenow Mountain wildfire. Elaine Van Rootselaar finds out what the province’s Good Samaritans are doing for those fleeing and fighting the blaze.

Peters said Pincher Creek RCMP victim services staff are helping the people who’ve lost their homes.

Scroll down for more information on what’s open, closed and what evacuees need to know

The Waterton fire remained out of control, though officials said the townsite was not under direct threat on Sept. 13, 2017.

Parks Canada

Emergency officials passed along an update from the Pincher Creek fire chief, who said the fire perimeter is no longer expanding into the south portion of the M.D. The threat to structures is considered minimal, with no flames near any intact homes in the area. Crews continue to work on small internal fires; structure protection work continues in the Castle Mountain area.

“The south Castle area still remains under full evacuation; we’re not permitting anyone into that area at this time,” Peters said, adding he had no information as to when re-entry would take place as the fire was still active.

Officials said the Castle ranch fire saw no growth overnight and is estimated at 500 hectares, with weather conditions improving the situation.

“The northeast corner of that fire was active overnight on the B.C. side, so we’re paying attention to that,” Leslie Lozinski from Alberta Agriculture and Environment said. “That fire is approximately 23 kilometres to Castle Mountain Resort and 30 kilometres to Beaver Mine.

“We are receiving more crews to our fires. The threat from our fires is still imminent.”

Officials said a re-entry plan is being formulated and a weather forecast of rain and little wind is expected to help the area.

Watch below: Cpl. Curtis Peters updates the re-entry procedure for evacuated residents.

Twin Butte residents’ re-entry

Twin Butte area residents are now permitted past the road blocks set up by RCMP and are required to register and provide their driver’s licence. They will then be allowed in to access their properties for approximately two hours to check on their homes and livestock.

Watch below: Leslie Lozinski from Alberta Wildfire Management says weather conditions have been favourable in recent days of the Alberta wildfire fight

‘Explosive’ response to donations for fire crews

Meantime, donations poured in for fire departments heading to help from southern Alberta towns.

The Nanton Fire Department opened its fire hall, asking for supplies including cases of water, electrolyte-high drinks like Gatorade and Powerade and non-perishable snacks like granola bars.

“We’ve had an explosive response to this post and the fire hall is full of supplies to send south,” the department wrote in a status update Tuesday night. “At this time we are fully stocked and ready to go. Thank you so very much to everyone that donated.”

In Lethbridge, Honkers pub was collecting donations for the Pincher Creek SPCA, asking for items including dog/cat food, leashes, collars, litter and litter boxes to help host animals displaced from the fire.

A Lethbridge pub is accepting donations to the Pincher Creek, Alta. SPCA due to pets displaced by the Waterton wildfire.

Elaine Van Rootselaar / Global News

Cardston County update: fire contained but mandatory evacuation still in place

Cardston County has contained the fire to a single location and crews have it under control, but a mandatory evacuation remains in place as the fire may still pose a danger.

Electrical power remains out.

What’s closed:

Mandatory evacuations

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for:

  • Pincher Creek residents in the area south of Highway 505 to Waterton Park and Castle Mountain Resort.
  • Cardston County residents in all areas between Waterton Park and Range Road 281 (Hwy 800) from the U.S. border north to Township Road 40.
  • All areas of Waterton Lakes National Park, including the Waterton townsite and all front-country and back-country trails. All residents and non-essential personnel have been safely evacuated and the townsite is secure. Admittance at the park gate is limited to essential personnel.

Detailed information on affected areas can be found at emergency.alberta.ca

Evacuee registration and assistance

Evacuees should register at the reception centre by phone or email, even if they do not need assistance. Registering will provide a record that you were evacuated and enable authorities to contact you with any new information. Please provide your name, number of people in your party and phone number.

Pincher Creek and Waterton area reception centre
Vertical Church, 1200 Ken Thornton Blvd, Pincher Creek
403-904-8016
mdpinchercreek.ab.ca

Cardston County
Evacuees should contact 403-653-3366
cardstoncounty.com

Information from Parks Canada for residents under evacuation

  • You must leave the area immediately
  • If you need transportation assistance to leave Waterton, please (a) advise the individual providing you with this in-person notice, (b) go to Waterton Park Community Centre or (c) call 403-859-5109 if you cannot do (a) or (b)
  • Close all windows and doors
  • Shut off all gas and electrical appliances, other than refrigerators and freezers
  • Close gates (latch) but do not lock
  • Gather your family: take a neighbour or someone who needs help
  • Take critical items (medicine, purse, wallet, important documents, and keys) only if they are immediately available
  • Take pets in pet kennels or on leash
  • Do not use the telephone unless you need emergency service
  • Emergency personnel will check all houses and locations and mark them when cleared
  • Travel will only be permitted out of the park. Admittance at the Waterton Lakes National Park gate will be limited to emergency vehicles.
  • All evacuees are strongly recommended to register at the reception and evacuation centre located in Pincher Creek at the Vertical Church (1200 Ken Thornton Blvd., located just south of Co-Op and Vista Village), even if you do not require assistance. Registering will provide a record that you were evacuated and enable authorities to contact you with any new information. You can register by email to mdinfo@mdpinchercreek.ab.ca (put in subject line: “Evac Registration”) or by phoning 403-904-0021. Please provide name, number in party and contact phone number.

For more information contact the Parks Canada information line at 403-859-5109.

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

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