The Numa Creek wildfire in Kootenay National Park is still burning but continues to be contained to the drainage in which it started.
A back-burning operation by Parks Canada fire crews last week, combined with last week’s rain, has kept the fire in the upper Numa Creek valley.
During the back-burning, crews burned a small patch of forest between the wildfire and a large avalanche path. As of late last week, the fire had grown to about 80 hectares in size, but wasn’t resulting in much visible smoke.
Fire crews will continue to manage the fire by confining it in the Numa Creek drainage instead of trying to put it out. The steep slopes and difficult terrain in the area mean that directly suppressing the wildfire would involve a significant safety threat to fire crews.
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.
Another reason for managing the fire instead of going to potentially unsafe lengths to put it out is that fire plays an important ecological roles in mountain parks and is particularly beneficial to recovery of white bark pine, an endangered tree species found in the Numa Creek drainage.
Through-hiking the renowned 55 kilometre-long Rockwall trail is still impossible at this time, with the same trail closures in Kootenay National Park reported in last week’s Echo remaining in effect. The entire Numa Creek drainage is off-limits, including Numa Creek campground, the adjoining sections of the Rockwall trail and the Numa Creek trail, which connects Highway 93 to the Rockwall.
Since Tumbling Creek trail, another trial 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. Visitors with smoke sensitivity should still avoid the area altogether.
The fire danger level in Parks Canada’s Lake Louise-Yoho-Kootenay field unit has been downgraded to moderate, but park authorities are asking visitors to keep campfires in designated areas and ensure any fires are fully extinguished before leaving their site.