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Weekend wildfire burns 4.4 hectares, now under control

“We have been fortunate this year so far in the Calgary Forest Area that there haven't been wildfires threatening communities, but we always have to be on alert."

LAC DES ARCS – A wildfire that began Friday evening (July 23) near Lac des Arcs along Highway 1 consumed 4.4 hectares of forest before being put under control.

Alberta Forestry, Exshaw Fire-Rescue and Canmore Fire-Rescue responded to multiple reports for the wildfire on Friday, which saw water tankers, helicopters and dozens of firefighters being called in to help contain the fire that was east of the rock cut and near the busy highway.

Josee St–Onge, a provincial information officer with Alberta Wildfire’s prevention section, said they received the report slightly before 6 p.m. Once the situation was quickly assessed, it was found the fire had burned about two hectares and information was relayed to the Calgary Forest Area to send in an initial attack crew, firefighters, water tankers and helicopters.

“We have been fortunate this year so far in the Calgary Forest Area that there haven't been wildfires threatening communities, but we always have to be on alert,” she said.

The response saw 46 firefighters with Alberta Wildfire, six helicopters, a water truck and an air tanker respond in addition to municipal firefighters from Exshaw and Canmore Fire Rescues.

St–Onge said air tankers and helicopters began dropping water and fire retardants to help prevent the fire from spreading.

“We don't assign them to a specific fire. They are mobile and they're able to respond very quickly throughout the province.”

While the fire is under control, the proximity to both the highway and population centres is a warning to the communities that are largely centred around heavily forested areas.

Dozens of videos posted online taken from nearby properties and the highway show the water bombers being called in.

Canmore Fire-Rescue Chief Walter Gahler said it was a reminder for all residents and visitors to be careful in the busy Bow Valley.

“They got the tankers and helicopters in the air really quick. They were hitting that from the air in short order,” Gahler said. “There’s not a lot of infrastructure near there, but the highway infrastructure is one of the busiest in western Canada.”

Exshaw Fire-Rescue Chief Rick Lyster also said crews were continuing to assist with water supply on Saturday.

An extreme fire danger and fire ban was issued earlier in the week for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks.

Environment Canada also issued special air quality statements for much of southern Alberta, including Banff, Kananaskis, and Canmore as smoke continues to blow into Alberta from ongoing wildfires in British Columbia.

There are also two other fires to the north of the Town of Banff that are ongoing as of Saturday in the Rocky Mountain House forest area, according to Alberta Wildfire.

Alberta Parks also closed the Razors Edge Trail and Middle Lake and surrounding areas until further notice due to the Lac des Arcs wildfire. A release stated the Middle Lakes area was being used by helicopters to fill their water buckets.

St–Onge noted a fire restriction was put in place Tuesday (July 27) until further notice for the Calgary Forest Area due to the hot and dry conditions and the increased fire danger for the region.

“It's very important for people who are spending time in the area to be aware of the restrictions and to follow up on what that means for their own activities,” she said. “We do know that, for example, last year, 88 per cent of wildfires in Alberta were human-caused, so there is a big aspect of prevention that each of us can take on.

“What that means is that you can still have a campfire on your private land, for example, in the backyard, or at a campground, but campfires are no longer allowed in random camping areas, and that's to make sure that we are designating our resources, where they're going to be needed most.”