Waterton Lakes NP - Parks Canada wildfire crews are ramping up efforts to manage portions of the Kenow Fire, which has grown to about 7,800 hectares -- but has not advanced into Waterton Lakes National Park.
Helicopter crews are using buckets to throw water along the Sage and South Kootenay Passes, and the fire management team is also assessing options to remove vegetation from South Kootenay Pass.
To prevent or slow the fire if it enters the park, officials are also identifying and strengthening natural and human-made landscape features in the Akamina and Red Rock valleys that can act as containment lines.
Air quality in the region continues to be an issue, especially overnight when the smoke may settle in the valley bottoms.
Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says protecting communities like the Waterton Lakes National Park townsite remains at the top of their priority list.
"At this point, Parks Canada is handling the fire within the Waterton Lakes National Park, we are in contact with Parks Canada. Our forestry officials are working with them, and we are also at the civil service end and my end, in contact with Parks Canada."
Matt Anderson, Provincial Wildfire Information officer, says so far it has been a fairly quiet wildfire season because of significant precipitation in the northern part of the province, but in the southwestern part of the province, it's a completely different story and this type of extreme fire hazard hasn't been seen since 2007.
"In the Calgary forest area, the closest forest area in the province, we issued a fire advisory on July 4. That moved to a restriction on July 7. Then, a partial ban down in the south on the 19th of July, followed by a full ban in our area on the 27th and a closure on Sept. 4. That's over 60 days of very high to extreme wildfire hazard."
He adds that right now, they have 840 firefighters available, 140 helicopters and 18 tankers also on standby, should Parks Canada officials need any help in the future.
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