Wildfire growing in Kootenay park

A growing wildfire is currently being fought in Kootenay National Park

A growing wildfire is currently being fought in Kootenay National Park and has resulted in the closure of parts of a popular trail in the area.

Parks Canada fire crews responded to reports of fire on Numa Pass, on the north side of Numa Creek, around noon on Thursday, July 25th.

Two helicopters were used to contain the fire to a hectare and a half (a hectare is roughly the size of two football fields) by Thursday evening and the helicopters and Initial Attack crews continued efforts to keep the blaze under control on Friday, July 26th. Smoke has been highly visible along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park ever since.

The fire continued to burn over the weekend, growing to 2.5 hectares. The Initial Attack crews were pulled off the fire due to the difficult terrain and steep slopes in the area.

Gusty overnight winds associated with thunderstorms in the area had pushed the fire to 50 hectares in size by Monday, July 29th. Active fire and open flames were visible from Highway 93 during the night.

Parks Canada fire crews were still monitoring the blaze with helicopters as of press time and may look at alternate suppression techniques if the fire gets worse.

The entire Numa Creek drainage has been closed as a result of the fire, including Numa Creek campground and the adjoining sections of Kootenay National Park’s renown 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 the highway 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.

 

Lightning from storms that occurred early last week likely started the fire.

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.

Since smoke from the fire may affect visibility, drivers on Highway 93 should exercise caution. People wanting to stop and take a look at the smoke should pull over and stop in a safe location.