Chetamon wildfire: Jasper remains on generator power, fire activity expected to decrease

Click to play video: 'Perimeter of Chetamon wildfire in Jasper National Park holding'
Perimeter of Chetamon wildfire in Jasper National Park holding
WATCH (Sept. 11): Parks Canada says it was bracing for the Chetamon wildfire to grow, but through the hot and dry weather it seems the perimeter is holding. Nicole Stillger has an update on the wildfire and the power situation in Jasper – Sep 11, 2022

The Chetamon Wildfire continues to burn outside the town of Jasper, Alta., but firefighters, Parks Canada and ATCO crews were all able to make good progress over the weekend.

According to Parks Canada, there are more than 125 firefighting personnel and nine helicopters keeping the fire from spreading towards communities and critical infrastructure.

Incident commander Landon Shepherd said Sunday there was “negligible growth” on Saturday, with a lot of water bucketing support and fire suppression on the ground.

“We’re going to be able to secure certain parts of this fire … but we’re not expecting to be able to put the fire out, especially along that long, northwest flank,” Shepherd said.

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He explained that fall, cooler weather and either rain or snow will likely be the reason the wildfire will fully self-extinguish.

“There are still no communities currently threatened by this wildfire,” he added, referencing both Jasper and West Yellowhead County to the north.

Click to play video: 'Jasper in precarious situation as power unstable and Chetamon  wildfire still burns'
Jasper in precarious situation as power unstable and Chetamon wildfire still burns

The fire, which is estimated to be about 5,800 hectares big, damaged the ATCO Electric power line last weekend, disrupting the power supply to Jasper.

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Since then, ATCO has been using a backup generator power system but has experienced challenges with connecting the various equipment without tripping the system as it works to restore the permanent transmission system.

Parks Canada has also been helping ATCO crews gain access to damaged infrastructure to reactivate and repair the transmission line.

“They’ve been having a lot of success out there,” Shepherd said. “They’ve made some great process and put up some complex structures in a really short period of time.”

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Parks Canada and the town are still discouraging people from visiting Jasper at this time.

“We’re unable to provide more than essential and critical services at this time,” Shepherd said.

Campgrounds will be closed until at least Sept. 25, he said.

Since the Town of Jasper is operating on generator power, it will experience intermittent power outages and a reduced power supply.

As of Sunday, ATCO said it had been able to restore and maintain generator power to about 90 per cent of the town.

However, it was still asking residents and businesses to conserve energy.

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“We do feel that residents are absolutely getting the message and we really appreciate that,” ATCO spokesperson Amanda Mattern said. “We need to continue those efforts throughout the coming days.

“Generator power does not have the same reliability as our transmission system so simple energy saving measures will help maintain the generator system.”

She suggested some energy-saving steps include turning off lights, turning off air conditioning and reducing the use of power-consuming appliance use (dishwashers, washer/dryer).

As of Sunday, there were seven generators on site, Mattern said.

“There is enough generation to meet the needs of the town. However, we continue to see issues with stability and therefore we’re being very cautious when we add on.”

Click to play video: 'Motorists capture nighttime view of Alberta wildfire'
Motorists capture nighttime view of Alberta wildfire

Mayor Richard Ireland said the municipality is prioritizing its power use to critical infrastructure, residents and essential services like gas stations, grocery stores and pharmacies.

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“We anticipate that intermittent outages will continue so long as we remain connected to generator power, which ATCO has indicated will be for the next few weeks,” he said Sunday.

He thanked firefighters, Parks Canada, utility crews and Jasper residents for their work, cooperation and patience.

“We acknowledge and thank those many businesses who have voluntarily acquired their own generators and who have committed to remain on that source of power to free up load capacity for critical infrastructure, for residents and for essential services until more long-term solutions are achieved,” Ireland said.

“We have seen a united community response to a most serious and significant community threat. I could not be more proud and more appreciative of the community.”

Chetamon Wildfire near Jasper, Alta., on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. Parks Canada

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