The Numa Creek wildfire continued to burn in Kootenay National Park and Parks Canada fire crews kept monitoring and working to contain it last week.
On Thursday, August 1st crews successfully burned a small area of forest between the wildfire and a large avalanche path to the east, a move done to help keep the wildfire within the upper part of the Numa Creek drainage. Parks Canada planned to have the crews continue their containment efforts during the weekend.
The fire was expected to create localized smoke, depending on weather conditions, during Friday and on the weekend. Other wildfires already burning in several spots in southeast B.C. may also contribute to smoke levels in the East Kootenay.
Crews first responded to reports of fire in the area around noon on Thursday, July 25th. The blaze jumped in size from three hectares to 50 hectares during its first weekend, due to gusty winds associated with thunderstorms. Lightning strikes likely started the fire.
Fire plays an important ecological role in mountain parks and is particularly beneficial to recovery of white bark pine, an endangered tree species found in the Numa Creek drainage.
The same trail closures in Kootenay National Park reported in last week’s Echo remain in effect, with the entire Numa Creek drainage off-limits, including Numa Creek campground and the adjoining sections of Kootenay National Park’s renowned Rockwall trail, as well as the Numa Creek trail, which connects Highway 93 to the Rockwall. Through-hiking the 55 kilometre-long Rockwall trail is currently impossible.
Since Tumbling Creek trail, another trail connecting Highway 93 to the Rockwall trail, has been closed since 2012 because of a bridge washout, the only current access from Highway 93 to the Rockwall trail is on the Helmet Creek trail (which goes to the Rockwall’s far north end) or Floe Lake trail (which goes to the Rockwall’s far south end). Hikers still wishing to visit the Rockwall will have to do out-and-back hikes on these two remaining access trails. There is potential for long-term closure of the trail depending on seasonal weather patterns and increased fire behaviour.
People with smoke sensitivity problem may want to avoid the area altogether. The fire danger level in Parks Canada’s Lake Louise-Yoho-Kootenay field unit has been elevated to high. There is no fire ban for the field unit, but park authorities are asking visitors to keep campfires in designated areas and ensure any fires are fully extinguished before leaving their site.