Afire spotter who vanished from herlookout tower near Hinton is likelythevictim of foul play, RCMP said Wednesday.

In a news release, police said they have launched a criminal investigation into the disappearance of Stephanie Stewart, 70, because they don't believe she simply wandered away or was attacked by an animal.

Stewart has not been heard from since she spoke with family Friday.

She was working as a seasonal fire spotter at the Athabasca lookout tower in the foothills of the Rockies about 25 kilometres northwest of Hinton and east of Jasper National Park.

Items missing from living quarters

On Tuesday, police issued a list of items, including a duvet and an "unusual" watch, they said went missing from Stewart's living quarters.

Stewart has 18 years of experience as a fire spotter and is described as incredibly fit.

The RCMP, search-and-rescue teams, conservation officers and volunteers have been searching the area near the tower since Stewart was reported missing on Saturday.

Police are asking anyone whonoticed any suspicious activity or vehicles in the area between Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 to call Hinton RCMP at (780) 865-5544 or Crimestoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477).

Hinton is 280 kilometres west of Edmonton.