The Wardle Wildfire Complex jumped the road last week, burning on both sides of Hwy 93S in Kootenay National Park.
The fire grew to an estimated 1,200 hectares last week and is holding steady at that size.
“The Wardle fire is exhibiting very active fire behaviour, with very dense smoke settling down in the valley,” reported Jed Cochrane, incident commander for the Wardle Wildfire Complex, in a media conference call Friday, August 3rd. “We don’t have any containment on the fire at this point. In the next couple of days, we’re expecting the fire to grow a little bit.”
Mr. Cochrane says strong winds from the south and the abundance of fuel led to it growing “quite quickly.”
As of Tuesday’s press time, 10 helicopters are bucketing to slow the fire’s growth, backed up by two pieces ofh eavy equipment and 100 personnel. Mr. Cochrane reported Parks Canada crews from across Canada were joining local crews to fight the wildfire.
“As you can appreciate, British Columbia is quite active with fires; firefighting resources are stretched,” says Mr. Cochrane. “Firefighters in there now are Parks Canada firefighters from all over the country.”
The wildfire complex began Tuesday, July 31st, as several separate lightning-ignited wildfires. The fires quickly grew and on Wednesday, August 1st, the two wildfires in the Vermillion Valley merged to form the Wardle Wildfire complex.
“Our priority will be to manage the Wardle fire and bring it to containment as fast as possible,” says Mr. Cochrane.
Kootenay Park Lodge was evacuated due to the proximity of the Wardle fire to the lodge.
Intermittent highway closures are in effect. After long weekend openings, it was shut to thru-traffic again Tuesday, though users could access from Castle Junction to Paint Pots from the north, and south from Radium to McLeod Meadows.
According to Parks Canada, for a highway to be considered safe to reopen, they look at several factors, including the risk of falling trees on the highway, anticipated movement of the fire, and heavy amounts of smoke that could affect visibility. Parks Canada advises drivers to check www.DriveBC.ca and www.511.alberta.ca for up-to-date road closure information.
Mr. Cochrane assures all fire crews in the Rocky Mountain national parks are ready to go for any new fire starts that may happen in the park.
Outside Kootenay National Park, the Whitetail Creek fire continues to burn at an estimated 240 hectares. Mr. Cochrane says that fire is a long ways from Wardle, about 14 kilometres, and are located in two separate valleys; Whitetail is at the end of the Kootenay valley and headwaters of Beaverfoot valley; Wardle is in the Vermillion valley. The Whitetail fire is 50 per cent guarded, and 35 per cent contained. As of press time Tuesday, August 7th, Whitetail had 64 firefighters, four helicopters, and four pieces of heavy equipment on-site. Beaverfoot Forest Service road is closed beyond the 47-kilomtere mark as a result of the fire.