Waterton townsite no longer under wildfire threat

By Lethbridge News Now (Geoff Smith)
September 13, 2017 - 10:28am

TABER - Ten members of the M.D. of Taber Regional Fire Services have returned from helping protect the Waterton townsite, and the regional fire chief has been told replacements are no longer needed.

"The experts say the townsite is no longer under threat, so they're demobilizing the resources," Brian Schafer said Wednesday morning. He told Lethbridge News Now the firefighters got home at approximately 1 or 2 a.m.

"We had a crew set up this morning... to leave at 10 a.m. but the provincial operations centre and Parks Canada released us, and they're sending a whole bunch of the crews home," Schafer explained. "We were part of the first ones to leave, and other crews are being released and being sent home last night and today as well."

Schafer said it was a job well done by members of the team from the M.D. of Taber and their colleagues from other departments. They were stationed in the south sector of the national park townsite, and they left with the town still standing.

He's happy they were able to help.

"Everyone in this area gets down to Waterton at some point here. It's a beautiful park, and our five fire departments together helped preserve that park." He added an evacuation plan had been shared with the firefighters on duty to make sure they could get out if needed.

The contingent included six M.D. of Taber employees and four volunteer firefighters. The contingent included firefighters from Enchant and Vauxhall as well as the M.D. 

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Information released Tuesday night by the Government of Alberta gives some scope and scale on the fire that is burning in and around Waterton Lakes National Park:

- Total size of fire: 42,000 ha (420 sq. km)

- Portion burning in Alberta: 33,000 ha (330 sq. km)

- Homes affected by evacuations: approximately 150 in M.D. of Pincher Creek, more than 50 in Cardston County. An estimated 180 members of the Blood Tribe also affected

- Total people under mandatory evacuation order: approximately 500

- Firefighters working in Waterton Lakes National Park: roughly 135, using nine Alberta air tankers and 14 helicopters. Seventeen trucks are in park

- Crews on standby: 125 firefighters, 23 helicopters

Highways closed:

- Highway 5 between Highway 800 and Waterton park boundary, and within park

- Highway 6 between Highway 505 and Waterton park boundary, and within park

- Chief Mountain border crossing

- Highway 532 west of Highway 22 (permit holders exempt)

- Highway 520, 12 km east of Highway 22 (permit holders exempt)

- Highway 774 between Highway 507 and Castle Provincial Park (permit holders exempt)

Parks closed:

- Waterton Lakes National Park

- Payne Lake Provincial Recreation Area

- Beauvais Lake Provincial Park

- Maycroft Provincial Recreation Area

- Waterton Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area

A look inside Waterton Lakes NP as weather conditions improve

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