The lightning-ignited Wardle wildfire in Kootenay National Park near Highway 93S, looking south in the Vermilion valley. Taken August 1 2018. Parks Canada photo.

Wildfire in national park jumps B.C. highway, continues to grow

Kootenay National Park’s Wardle wildfire up to 1,200 hectares and growing

The Wardle Wildfire Complex has jumped the highway, burning on both sides of Hwy 93S in Kootenay National Park.

The fire grew overnight to an estimated 1,200 hectares, and fire officials report they expect it to grow more before crews can control it.

“The Wardle fire is exhibiting very active fire behaviour, with very dense smoke settling down in the valley,” reports Jed Cochrane, incident commander for the Wardle Wildfire Complex. “We don’t have any containment on the fire at this point. In the next couple of days, we’re expecting the fire to grow a little bit.”

Cochrane says strong winds from the south and the abundance of fuel led to it growing “quite quickly.”

Nine helicopters are bucketing to slow the fire’s growth in a couple key areas, he reports. Crews are on site, and Parks Canada is bringing in an additional 25 contract firefighters tomorrow to join the mostly Parks Canada fire crews.

“As you can appreciate, British Columbia is quite active with fires; firefighting resources are stretched,” says Cochrane. “Firefighters in there now are Parks Canada firefighters from all over the country.”

The wildfire complex began Tuesday, July 31, as several separate lightning-ignited wildfires. The fires quickly grew and on Wednesday, August 1, the two wildfires in the Vermillion Valley merged to form the Wardle Wildfire complex.

“Our priority will be to manage the Wardle fire and bring it to containment as fast as possible,” says Cochrane.

Hwy 93S is closed in the middle of Kootenay National Park. Access is open from either end, south from Radium to McLeod Meadows, including Radium Hot pools, and from the north, users can reach Paint Pots, Marble Canyon Campground, and Storm Lodge. Kootenay Park Lodge was evacuated due to the proximity of the Wardle fire to the lodge.

Cochrane assures all fire crews in the Rocky Mountain national parks are ready to go for any new fire starts that may happen in the park. Two other small fires, one in Banff National Park at Lipalian Mountain, is 100 per cent contained, with a crew back on site today to ensure the fire is put out. The other cropped up in Yoho National Park near Field and Emerald Lake, but Cochrane anticipates that fire will be extinguished by end of day today.

Outside Kootenay National Park, the Whitetail Creek fire continues to burn at an estimated 290 hectares. Cochrane says that fire is a long ways from Wardle, about 14 kilometres, and are located in two separate valleys; Whitetail is at the end of the Kootenay valley and headwaters of Beaverfoot valley; Wardle is in the Vermillion valley.

For up-to-date reports on road clsoures, Cochrane advises drivebc.ca and www.511.alberta.ca. Kootenay National Park also has a dedicated website for wildfire information.

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