Damage has been reported to farms and ranches on the perimeter of Waterton Lakes National Park as a wildfire continues to burn in southwestern Alberta.
Residents in the region east and north of the park were evacuated last night and the area under mandatory evacuation was expanded twice as the fire doubled in size, fed by strong winds.
The fire remains out of control, but Bernie Schmitte of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry said he was hopeful progress would be made today to contain its spread.
So far, about 500 people have had to leave their homes inside Waterton Lakes National Park and environs.
The Municipal District of Pincher Creek and County of Cardston have each declared local states of emergency. Contrary to some rumours, the town of Pincher Creek is not under evacuation order, although Mayor Don Anderburg said planning is underway for evacuation should it occur.
The fire is now approximately 50,000 acres in size.
Premier Rachel Notley gave an update on the situation for media earlier today, noting the Waterton park is a special place to hundreds of thousands of people. Some 100 people live in the town site year-round and were evacuated along with park visitors on the evening of Sept. 8.
The visitor’s centre just outside the town has been burned to the ground, but the scenic Prince of Wales Hotel, an iconic structure that is a symbol of the park, was reportedly intact as of noon today.
— Kaella Carr (@CTVKaellaCarr) September 12, 2017
About 200 firefighters are on site, supported by water bombers and helicopters working to suppress the fire. High winds yesterday evening prevented aircraft from flying and fighting the flames.
At the same time as the forest fire, dubbed the Know wildfire, continued to burn, embers ignited a grass fire outside the park. It is this fire that has affected area farms and ranches.
Officials are hoping a forecasted cold front will work its way into the region Wednesday or Thursday and bring rain. There has been no precipitation in southwestern Alberta since mid-July.