Out-of-control wildfire north of Canmore grows to 560 hectares

An out-of-control wildfire north of Canmore, Alta., has grown from 10 hectares to 560 hectares since it was discovered on Friday.

The fire's growth is attributed to forestry crews' back burning to secure a perimeter

A smoky sky and a water bomber are seen overhead as an out-of-control wildfire burns near Banff National Park in Alberta on Saturday. (Helen Pike/CBC)

An out-of-control wildfire north of Canmore, Alta., has expanded from 10 hectares to 560 hectares since it was discovered on Friday.

Listed as 120 hectares on Saturday, the expansion in size to 560 is attributed to forestry crews securing a fire perimeter, according to wildfire information officer Travis Fairweather.

"A lot of that additional size was due to some successful controlled burns that wildfire operations was able to conduct in the area. So that was all positive to see," Fairweather said.

On Friday, a group of four air tankers, two helicopters and 14 wildland firefighters were dispatched to fight the fire, located in the forest reserve near the base of Blackrock Mountain and at the west end of Township Road 270.

At the time, Alberta Wildfire said there was no risk to people or property, but that people in the area should stay aware of the situation as it evolves. An investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.

"The fire continues to increase in size but is moving towards the north and up the mountain slope," an information alert issued at 7:46 p.m. Saturday read.

The road leading up to the wildfire was lined with campers on Saturday.

Sam McCrory was one of them. She said it was smoky when she first arrived but had since worsened.

"Yeah, it was decently smoky, but not like it is right now," she said.

The wildfire is burning on the west end of TransAlta Road (or Township Road 270). No properties were at risk as of Saturday morning. (Google Maps)

Fairweather said on Saturday evening there were no evacuation orders in place — but Alberta Parks was ready to coordinate if needed.

"As long as the sun is up they'll be working on it. Fortunately, today we saw most of the growth was on the north end of the fire, so kind of moving up the slope. And the area of concern is to the southeast. So that was certainly a good sign."

Fairweather said conditions were favourable on Saturday to "fight fire with fire" and remove potential fuel that could allow the fire to spread.

"What that means is they'll burn out some of the trees that might be in the path of the wildfire ... with the right wind conditions they will be able to do that," he said.

"It will put a lot of extra smoke up into the air that will be visible by people, but that is very normal for this time of operation and shouldn't be of concern to people."

Alberta Wildfire rated the fire danger in the southern Rockies as high to extreme on Saturday morning, and low to moderate elsewhere in the province. 

A fire advisory is in place for the MD of Bighorn. 

Much of the area surrounding Calgary and large swathes of southern Alberta are currently under fire bans

There have been a total of 598 wildfires so far this year in Alberta with two months left to go in wildfire season. There were 989 total wildfires last year. The five-year average is 1,277, according to Alberta Wildfire.

With files from Helen Pike


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