Aerial surveys of the wildfire in the Verdant Creek area have failed to reveal the full extent of the blaze as thick smoke continues to blanket the region but Parks Canada officials confirm the fire has grown.

“It’s still actively burning,” explained Jane Park, fire and vegetation specialist with Parks Canada. “It’s in quite a remote drainage area with quite a narrow valley and high mountains and terrain. We’ve mostly been using aircraft helicopters to put water on the fire at this time. It’s just not safe yet to put people on the ground.”

The fire was first detected on Saturday July 15 but it’s believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike a few days earlier.

At this time, the following areas are off-limits:

  • Honeymoon Pass/Verdant Creek (Kootenay National Park)
  • Simpson River trails (Kootenay National Park)
  • Healy Pass (Banff National Park)
  • Simpson Pass (Banff National Park)
  • Whistling Valley (Banff National Park)
  • Pharaoh Creek (Banff National Park)

The closed areas are situated east of Highway 93 and south of the Trans-Canada Highway in Alberta and British Columbia.

“There were a several campgrounds as well as a lot of hikers in the area,” said Park of the evacuation effort. “That was done through the day yesterday by helicopter and ground personnel.”

Parks Canada has not confirmed exactly how many people were evacuated from the closed sections of Banff and Kootenay National Parks.

All backcountry camping permits in the closed area have been cancelled. Anyone with a reservation to camp in the area is encouraged to contact the Banff National Park visitor centre or call 403-762-1556.

Highway 93 remains open to traffic and there is currently no risk to the communities of Lake Louise, Radium Hot Springs and the Banff townsite.

Sunshine Village and Shadow Lake Lodge remain open to the public.

With files from CTV's Ina Sidhu