Tourists hoping to breathe in Banff National Park’s world-class views and fresh airs are being greeted with a gulp of smoke instead.
The haze hanging overhead is snuffing out views and the unprecedented heat this summer has the fire risk soaring to extreme.
The Town of Banff is preparing residents and guests for a worst-case scenario.
“There’s always a real concern,” said Banff’s fire chief Silvio Adamo. “We are surrounded by a mature, old-growth forest. If we get an ignition, it certainly has the potential to move quickly and devastate.”
Evacuation guides are being dropped off on doorsteps across town, urging residents to familiarize themselves with evacuation plans and to have a bag packed ready to go, just in case.
“Be prepared for an evacuation,” said Adamo.
“When we go to extreme fire hazard, everyone should be prepared and have a go-bag with you, your medication, important documents and have a full tank of gas.
“We’ve done a significant amount of work to prepare for an evacuation,” he added. “We got the timing down to be able to move every resident and visitor from the south side of the bridge in four hours, so we ask for co-operation from visitors and residents to move them out of harm’s way and then we can protect the structures.”
The precautions being taken are not lost on residents like Mary Harding, who helped evacuate people from their homes when fire ravaged Waterton National Park in 2017.
“For me, hearing the helicopters, seeing the smoke, I’m experienced a real deja vu. I’m finding it very worrisome.”
“I signed up yesterday to be one of the people to help my neighbour Fire Smart their homes,” she said Thursday as she was clearing sticks and debris from her yard.
There are currently no wildfires burning in southern Alberta but there is no precipitation on the horizon either.