By Kelsey Verboom,
Plumes of smoke poured from Octopus Mountain in Kootenay National Park on August 12th, when a forest fire flared up during hot afternoon temperatures.
The fire was reported to parks staff at 6:30 p.m. on August 12th, and by mid-morning on August 14th had reached 50 hectares in size.
The blaze was likely caused by lightening strikes earlier in the week, and lay dormant until hot temperatures caused it to flare up, said Julia Millen, Fire Communications Officer for Parks Canada.
Octopus Mountain is located near the Simpson monument on Highway 93, next to the Simpson River and near the border to Assiniboine Provincial Park. Despite its mid-park location, people phoned in reporting seeing the fire’s smoke column from as far away as Sunshine Mountain Village near Banff, Alberta.
The fire has caused the closure of the Simpson River trail, the Simpson River and Lachine Creek drainage basins to the National Park Boundary, as well as closures in Assiniboine Provincial Park.
As of August 14th, fire crews from Parks Canada, B.C. Parks, and the province’s Wildfire Management branch were assessing the scene. Two helicopters and two initial attack crews from Kootenay National Park were watching the fire, with additional crews from Banff expected to join if needed.
The smoke column, which was originally blowing towards Canmore, will likely change direction with an upcoming shift in winds, pushing the smoke southeast, Ms. Millen said. Upcoming weather forecasts included the possibility of more lightning, so crews will be on the lookout for new fires, she added.
There are currently two other small blazes (two hectares maximum) burning in Kootenay National Park on Mt. Sinclair. The Octopus Mountain fire is the eighth and largest fire in the national park this year.
For ongoing updates, go to www.pc.gc.ca/kootenay.