Haze lifts in valley as crews contain Banff fire

The air in the Upper Columbia Valley is much less hazy this week.

The air in the Upper Columbia Valley is much less hazy this week, as fire crews have brought a large wildfire straddling the northern edge of Banff National Park under control.

The Spreading Creek wildfire, which brought smoke and haze to the valley for much of last week, had grown to 8,300 hectares as of Monday, July 21st, but thanks to an 800-hectare burnout on Saturday, July 19th accompanied by six to eight millimetres of rain during the past weekend, the blaze was quite well-contained, according to Parks incident commander for the fire Dave Smith.

“Fire behaviour, at least for the part of the fire in the park, is next to nil. We’ve got a little bit of smouldering fire still, but that burnout along with rains has allowed us to get our people on the ground. We’re doing mop up right now,” said Mr. Smith.

Fire crews from Parks Canada and the Alberta provincial Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development are jointly managing the blaze — 2,300 hectares of which is the northern part of the park and the remaining 6,000 of which is just outside it. Parks Canada, as of press deadline, had 40 fire crew members working on the blaze, while the ministry had 150.

“It’s never done until the last spark is out, but provided conditions stay the same, we feel confident we can contain the fire we have inside the park boundaries to the current 2,300 hectares,” said Mr. Smith.

The Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper had seen some periodic closures as a result of the fire, but is now completely open.

The fire, which is about 100 kilometres northeast of Golden, started with a lightning strike just outside the park boundary, on Thursday, July 3rd.

Parks Canada did an initial burnout operation five days later and temporarily evacuated the Saskatchewan River Crossing warden station and Saskatchewan Crossing resort, on Friday, July 11th, reopening them both the following day.

Several enormous wildfires continue to burn in northern B.C., including the 20,000 hectare Mount McAllister fire and the 34,000 hectare Red Deer Creek fire, but neither is having any smoke impact on the valley.

B.C.’s Southeast Fire Centre (which includes the entire Kootenay region), prohibited all open fires in the area on Wednesday, July 2nd.

Campfires less than one-metre by one-metre are still permitted, but those having campfires are advised to keep a large pail of water and a hand tool nearby, to be able to quickly put out any blaze that might get slightly out of control.