The Kenow wildfire, burning out of control in B.C. is now "firmly established" in the Cameron Valley along the Akamina Parkway in Waterton Lakes National Park, according to Parks Canada.
The valley is home to Cameron Lake, a popular area where tourists can rent kayaks and canoes at the visitor centre. Akamina Parkway, the road from the townsite to the lake, follows the valley. It provides access to several well-used trails.
Additionally, a fire in the Tamarack Basin area, to the north of Cameron Valley, is expected to grow and move into the Blakiston Valley and towards the Red Rock Parkway, Parks Canada said in a news release.
That would mean the fire is encroaching on the Waterton townsite from two directions.
Support personnel were already evacuated from the park as high winds were expected to push the Kenow wildfire over the border from B.C., aided by tinder-dry conditions.
Wildland and structural fire crews remain Monday to continue preparations should flames threaten the townsite, about 270 kilometres south of Calgary.
A mobilized command centre is being set up.
Area commander Rick Kubian said if conditions align against firefighters, the flames could reach the townsite quickly.
"Fire behaviour prediction is a real challenging science. There is a possibility that the fire could move that distance in one burn period. So it is possible in eight to 12 hours that the fire could spread into the Waterton townsite area," he said.
Officials said earlier on Monday that the fire had reached 11,400 hectares in size, mostly in B.C. It moved 11.5 kilometres down the Akamina valley over the past three days and continues its march.
Helicopters were being used to drop water on the fire in the Tamarack Basin, which was said to be 50 hectares in size early on Monday.
Additional crews were tackling the fire on the north edge of the park, using air tankers and helicopters.
The fire was sparked 10 days ago after a lightning strike in the Flathead Valley just across the border from the national park, in B.C.
More than 185 firefighters, 14 aircraft and six firefighting vehicles have been deployed to the area, including personnel from the Calgary Fire Department.
There is rain in the forecast for the area, and Stoesser said any precipitation, as well as cooler temperatures, "would certainly help things out."
Waterton has a year-round population of only 105, according to the 2016 census, but its rugged mountain peaks and emerald lakes draw hundreds if not thousands of visitors a day in the summer months.
An evacuation order was issued for Waterton Lakes National Park on Friday and an evacuation centre set up in Pincher Creek.
Evacuees can check in by phone at 403-904-0021 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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