Crews from Pincher Creek plan for possible fire spread

By Geoff Smith (@GeoffSmithLNN on Twitter)
September 8, 2017 - 10:14am

PINCHER CREEK - Fire crews from Pincher Creek are among those making plans for the possibility that the Kenow fire burning in British Columbia will move across the boundary into Alberta.

A public information meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 at the Twin Butte Community Hall. David Cox, chief of Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said their response echoes the work of Parks Canada to manage the fire, protect structures, and plan for possible evacuations.

"We've been putting up structure protection at Castle resort, and other values at risk that we have within the forest protection area," Cox said Friday, "as well as planning in the event that the fire does get into Alberta and is coming into either those embedded urban interface communities or actually makes its way all the way out of the forest protection area into the ranchland to the east."

He said at this point a spread of the fire wouldn't directly impact many people, since most of the structures are vacation properties or second homes, and many people left with the closure of the forest area.

If the fire were to spread, Cox explained there are a couple of different models for the direction it would move, and they're planning for both. One could see it spread into the west Castle valley towards the ski resort, and right to the edge of the protection area near Beaver Mines Creek.

The other would be across the south Castle headwaters into the front canyons, emerging near Twin Butte parallel to the park. But Cox says the hope is that it will stay in British Columbia.

"At this point, we've got the plans in place but we haven't hit the triggers to activate them yet," he said.

The department has access to two provincial sprinkler trailers, and through mutual aid partnerships a recently-trained crew is coming in each day from the Blood Tribe. Cox said this has given them two crews devoted to structure protection during the past week.

Additional resources may be available from Willow Creek and Lethbridge, he added, as well as private firms. Based on if the fire reaches a trigger point, they'll be able to respond quickly.

"The fire has stayed in B.C. through some work with Agriculture and Forestry and the parks, as well as our wind conditions which are keeping the fire in B.C," Cox said. "But with the weather change predicted today (Friday) with the west winds, that's going to be our challenge, and their challenge.

"It's kind of wait and see, see how it plays out here."

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