August 23, 2018 11:37 pm
Updated: August 25, 2018 10:01 am

Wildfire prompts evacuation alert for people in Waterton Lakes National Park

WATCH: Residents, visitors and businesses in Waterton Lakes are bracing for a repeat of something they were forced to experience a year ago. The Boundary Creek wildfire is threatening the townsite almost exactly a year after residents were forced to evacuate in a similar situation. Sarah Offin reports.

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An out-of-control wildfire burning about seven kilometres south of the townsite in Waterton Lakes National Park has prompted officials to warn people in the area to be ready to leave on short notice.

“People in Waterton Park should be prepared to evacuate on short notice,” Parks Canada said in an emergency alert issued shortly before 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

“Avoid the area.”

READ MORE: Campers in southern Alberta breath sigh of relief after fire sparks near Waterton Lakes National Park

Parks Canada said the fire is burning in the Boundary Creek Valley and approaching Upper Waterton Lake. The organization said its staff swept trails and backcountry campgrounds and that all backcountry areas in the park had been closed.

View photos of the Boundary wildfire in the photo gallery below:

 

An out of control wildfire burning about five kilometres south of the townsite in Waterton Lakes National Park

Provided / Parks Canada

According to a press release issued Friday morning, Parks Canada said the wildfire has now grown to approximately 700 hectares in size. The fire remains south of the international border in Glacier National Park. As of Friday morning, Glacier National Park Air Attack is fighting the fire, Parks Canada said.

“Since Thursday night, the fire has moved east and west along the Boundary Creek Valley but not north towards the townsite,” spokesperson John Stoesser told Global News. “It’s also good to note there had been some trees burned away by the Kenow fire a year ago on the west side of Upper Waterton Lake, so there is a bit of a fire guard between the fire and the townsite today.”

WATCH BELOW: Here is a look from inside Waterton Lakes National Park Friday as officials continue to fight a wildfire burning in the Boundary Creek Valley.

Shifting winds have keeped the fire at bay, officials said.

READ MORE: Waterton fire: A look at the pristine hamlet threatened by wildfire

Parks Canada has deployed two helicopters, an initial attack team and a local incident command team to the area.

The weather forecast in the area is calling for potential rain and increased humidity Friday. As of 10 a.m., winds had shifted and were blowing from the north, Parks Canada said. Lower temperatures were expected later in the evening.

U.S. officials sent a statement Friday morning, saying the “Boundary fire” was reported Thursday at about 6:15 p.m. near the Campbell Mountain area west of Waterton Lake in northeast Glacier National Park in Montana.

“Parks Canada deployed initial attack aerial resources, but were unsuccessful in limiting fire growth,” reads the statement from Glacier National Park.

WATCH BELOW: People in the area of Waterton are being told they need to be ready to leave as a wildfire burns just south of the townsite.

“Based on an aerial reconnaissance, the fire is estimated at 1,200 acres (486 hectares) and is approximately one mile (1.6 kilometres) west of Waterton Lake. Last night it was reported to be fast-growing, with flame lengths up to 100 feet (30 metres). The park is implementing structure protection measures in the Goat Haunt area.”

Public information officer Lacey England said it’s the second fire in Glacier National Park and with thundershowers in the forecast, concern is growing.

Parks Canada crews preparing helicopters in case they’re needed Friday.

Kyle Benning / Global News

“It’s fast growing and there is infrastructure in the area so that raises concern… there is a cold front moving in which might bring thunderstorms later. Thunderstorms bring wind and that might be a concern if we get extreme weather.”

England said the amount of resources deployed is dependent on availability and air conditions.

U.S. officials said air resources would be used Friday to “slow the spread of the fire eastward toward Waterton Lake, as conditions allow,” and added the National Park Service and Parks Canada were “closely coordinating efforts.”

 

Waterton Lakes National Park is being threatened by fire for the second summer in a row.

Courtesy: Twitter/@awayward_

Because of the evacuation alert, Parks Canada officials suggested people in the park ensure they know where their family members are and to decide on where to meet outside of the evacuation area in the event an evacuation is ordered.

People were also asked to gather essential items like medication, glasses and valuable papers to be ready for the potential of a quick departure.

For more information, contact the Parks Canada information line at 403-859-5140. Click here for the latest update.

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Boston resident Jesse Logan spoke to Global News from the Waterton townsite Friday morning. He said he was hiking Bertha Lake trail late Thursday afternoon when he saw smoke.

“What tipped me off that we probably need to get moving was the helicopter that landed at the lake above me,” he said. “I found out later it dropped off two firefighters and they were doing a trail sweep.”

“I’d say it kind of smells like campfire in the Rockies with all the wildfires. It looked like a tower of white, moving and billowing …and cresting over the mountaintop. The wind was coming directly down the lake and it was a very strong wind.”

Parks Canada said that if an evacuation is ordered, people will be given notice in person or over the phone and that people would be asked to leave the park “within one hour of formal notice.”

READ MORE: Significant portion of Waterton Lakes National Park closed for 2018 season

Last year, an evacuation order was issued for the southern Alberta park because of the Kenow wildfire which caused mass destruction in the park.

Watch below: A new wildfire ignited in Glacier National Park is burning about 7 kilometres from the Waterton townsite. Kyle Benning spoke to a park visitor who had a close encounter with the fire, Parks Canada officials and the Waterton Chamber of Commerce.

What’s closed

  • All of Waterton Lakes National Park is closed

What’s open

  • Waterton townsite
  • Highway 5/6 including entrance road to townsite
  • Chief Mountain Highwa

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of the 2017 Kenow wildfire and its aftermath.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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