Snow snuffs out destructive Kenow fire

A fire that destroyed several ranches and burned a large portion of Waterton Lakes National Park in southwestern Alberta last month has now been deemed under control and continues to be monitored.

More than 20 centimetres of snow fell on the park and other parts of southern Alberta Oct. 2, marking the first time many area residents have welcomed heavy snow so early in the season.

Parks Canada said in an Oct. 3 news release that the fire, dubbed the Kenow fire because of its start near British Columbia’s Kenow Mountain, is not expected to spread further.

It has been burning in the park and area since Sept. 11 and even now, hot spots continue to smolder. Smoke is likely to be visible for several weeks, Parks Canada said.

Though the fire threatened the Waterton townsite, fire protection efforts saved all buildings with the exception of the visitor centre. Outside the town, the Alpine Stables horseback riding business was also destroyed.

The town and some parts of the park have re-opened to the public but many trails and popular tourist sites remain closed for safety reasons.

“The high intensity of the fire resulted in a large number of danger trees, rock falls, deep and hot ash pits and other hazards that continue to pose a safety risk throughout the park,” the news re-lease said.

“At this time, camping is not permitted anywhere in Waterton Lakes National Park and all areas west of Upper Waterton Lake remain closed for the safety of the public.”

The fire is estimated to have consumed more than 94,000 acres.

Since area residents were allowed to return to the area after a mandatory evacuation last month, volunteers have been helping ranchers rebuild perimeter fence so they can contain their cattle this winter. Donations of fencing supplies, hay and other materials have also been flowing in.

Donations to aid those affected are being accepted at Alberta Treasury Branches.

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