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Mandatory evacuation orders lifted in some areas as Kenow wildfire continues to burn
Published Thursday, September 14, 2017 11:41AM MDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 14, 2017 7:18PM MDT
Cooler temperatures and precipitation in the southern part of the province should help firefighters battle the wildfire that is burning in the Waterton area and officials say fire suppression efforts were successful in saving the townsite.
Parks Canada estimates the size of the Kenow wildfire to be about 35,000 hectares and officials said Wednesday that it is burning out of control.
“The fire is still classified as out of control,” said Leslie Lozinski, Wildire Information Officer “I think our firefighters are doing a great job out here. It's tough work, the topography makes it hard to fight the fire in the mountains. People have lost things that are very important to them, it’s a very emotional time for people and we just appreciate everybody's patience as we are out there doing our best to mop up the fire."
Firefighters have been working around the clock to protect buildings and infrastructure in Waterton Lakes National Park from the fire and officials say the townsite is no longer at risk.
“You didn't know whether they were going to be able to save the town and they were able to do that, thank goodness, that they did a lot of preparation and a lot of hard work and it’s just a miracle that the firefighters were able to do all that,” said Ross Uibel, Waterton business owner.
Ten buildings including five homes were destroyed and on Wednesday some of the evacuees were allowed into the wildfire zone to inspect their properties.
“Our officers have been in contact with anyone who did lose a home as a result of the fire,” said RCMP Corporal Curtis Peters. “People who haven’t been contacted by us, that means that their homes, thankfully, are still okay.”
Jim Garner’s Rocking Heart Ranch in Cardston County sustained major damage from the fire. He lost his home, several outbuildings, feed, fencing and personal items in the blaze.
He has insurance but says he is concerned for his neighbours and other members of the community.
“David Cassidy's house and barn operation up there, gone, just some chimney standing. Another fellow, two houses down, gone, disappeared. Jenkins Ranch over here, homes gone and burnt,” said Garner.
RCMP say Fortis Alberta delivered a generator to the area overnight and it is hoped that may speed up the re-entry timeline for evacuated residents.
The mandatory evacuation order has been lifted for the southern part of the Blood Reserve and officials say the fire in the area is under control.
An evacuation order for Cardston County has been lifted but remains in effect for Waterton Lakes National Park and the Castle Mountain Resort.
The mandatory evacuation area in the M.D. of Pincher Creek has been reduced and the area from Highway 505 south to Township Road 3/2 has reopened.
Officials say the area is still under an evacuation alert and residents should be ready to leave on short notice if the situation changes.
Residents are being advised to pick up a re-entry package at the MD administration office or at the old road block at the junction of Highway 5 and Highway 505.
Utilities has not been restored yet so those who do choose to return should be prepared to be without electricity or gas.
The cooler weather is expected to continue through the week and that should help crews with suppression efforts.
“The temperature change is great,” said Lozinski. “It’s pretty good for the fire.”
Parks Canada provided an update on Thursday morning and said that the fire did not grow overnight.
Officials say the area received about 6 mm of rain but intense fire behaviour is still possible because of the dry conditions.
For up-to-date information on fire alerts and area closures, click HERE.