Wildfire prompts evacuation alert for Waterton Lakes National Park

An evacuation alert has been issued for all areas of Waterton Lakes National Park, urging residents and visitors to be prepared to move quickly as a wildfire closes in on the area in southwest Alberta.

Residents and visitors can stay but should be prepared to move quickly

Waterton Lakes National Park is under an evacuation alert as a wildfire burns on its western edge. (Parks Canada)

An evacuation alert has been issued for all areas of Waterton Lakes National Park as a wildfire closes in on the area in southwest Alberta. 

"A wildfire that started west of Waterton in the Flathead Valley is currently burning out of control," said Parks Canada in the alert.  

"The conditions in the forest are extremely dry and Saturday evening, the fire did a seven kilometre run up to the boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park," said Dennis Madsen, the resource conservation manager for the park. 

Parks Canada said the Kenow fire on the edge of the park has grown to 6,500 hectares. 

Within the park, the fire was approximately a half hectare as of Monday, but Madsen said the forecast is calling for high winds coming from the south-southwest. 

"With the wind conditions we may see come over the weekend, we can expect significant movement of that fire and that would put it well inside Waterton and either put it within one or two bad burning days of the townsite itself," said Madsen.

Prepare to move quickly

The alert does not mean residents and visitors have to immediately leave the area, but warns them to prepare in order to evacuate quickly. 

"Visitors and residents will be given as much advance notice as possible prior to evacuation; however, you may receive limited notice due to changing conditions," read the alert. 

Parks Canada warns visitors and residents to:

  • Locate all family members or co-workers and establish a meeting spot outside the evacuation area in case of separation.
  • Gather essential items so they can be moved quickly.
  • Prepare to move any disabled persons, children and pets or livestock.
  • Arrange transportation and ensure vehicles are fuelled up.
  • Arrange accommodation outside the area if needed.
  • Monitor news sources to keep up to date.
  • Move fuel sources away from residences.

If an evacuation is ordered, Parks Canada says notice will be given by phone or in person and that emergency personnel will check all houses and locations and mark them when cleared.

Hour's notice

If an evacuation is required, people must leave within an hour of formal notice and are reminded to shut off gas lines and close all windows and doors. 

All of Waterton Lakes National Park is closed at this time, with the exception of:

  • Townsite.
  • Pass Creek, Emerald Bay, Prince of Wales and Linnet Day Use Area.
  • Highway 5/6 including Entrance Road to Townsite.
  • Chief Mountain Highway.

Madsen said Parks Canada is planning to establish a reception centre for summer staff that might not have transportation out of the park, or an alternative place to stay.