Sunshine Village to close, serve as staging area for crews to battle Verdant Creek wildfire
Ski resort not in danger as out-of-control fire shifts southward into B.C.'s Mount Assiniboine Park
Sunshine Village ski resort in Banff is being closed to the public to allow crews to use the area as a staging ground to fight an out-of-control wildfire burning just across the Continental Divide in British Columbia.
The Verdant Creek wildfire, sparked about a week ago by lightning in Kootenay National Park, has been holding about 2.5 kilometres away from Sunshine Village for several days.
The 2,500- to 3,000-hectare fire is now shifting southward, farther into B.C.'s Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, Parks Canada incident commander Rick Kubian told media on Thursday.
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"A decision has been made to implement a tactical closure of the ski area to visitors as of tomorrow," he said.
"It's not panicked, it's not in a hurry."
Sunshine had roughly 160 guests staying at the lodge in recent days.
Sunshine Village resort's closing temporarily (2-5 days) so <a href="https://twitter.com/ParksCanada">@ParksCanada</a> can fight <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/wildfires?src=hash">#wildfires</a>. All ~160 guests relocated to hotels in Banff. <a href="https://t.co/4p7QEExKmk">pic.twitter.com/4p7QEExKmk</a>—@KateMedia
Kubian said the closure will allow the 60-member crew and its six helicopters to fight the Verdant Creek wildfire more intensively while not putting visitors in danger.
"It's going to be a really busy area over the next few days, with helicopters moving around … and there is some potential for increased smoke," he said.
"It's just much safer to have that happen without visitors and guests in the area."
Sunshine Village spokesperson Kendra Scurfield said the decision to close the resort was taken in co-operation with Parks Canada officials. The resort is helping guests who had booked for the weekend to make alternate arrangements.
"We're looking and we're finding rooms in the town of Banff and in Canmore to move all of our guests," she said.
Kubian said the fire is continuing to grow, but its southward path makes it less concerning.
The bulk of the fire is burning in remote areas and it's unlikely it could cross the Continental Divide because the vegetation is too sparse to fuel it, he said.
"It's in some upper, sub-alpine vegetation and is holding there with us applying fire management activities, primarily bucketing with helicopters in the area to maintain it where it is," he said.
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