Verdant Creek wildfire in Kootenay National Park within 2 km of Sunshine Village
Officials remain confident fire poses no major threat to ski resort southwest of Banff
A forest fire raging in Kootenay National Park is about two kilometres away from Sunshine Village ski resort, but there are no plans at this point for an evacuation.
"We have contingency plans prepared should we need to evacuate the resort," said spokesperson Kendra Scurfield in an email. "At present there is no need or call from Parks Canada to do so. The safety of our guests and staff is our top priority."
There are about 150 guests and 100 staff at the lodge, which stays open during the summer for hikers, says chief operating officer Dave Riley.
Riley says he's in touch with Parks Canada officials a couple times a day for updates on the fire, which was sparked on Sunday by a lightning strike in the Verdant Creek area.
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"At this time, we're just standing by. We are in full operation with the hotel and restaurants, but the hiking trails are not open," he said.
Riley says there are sprinklers and pumps in place to protect the buildings if that becomes necessary.
"Not in my recollection have we had a fire this close," Riley said.
Parks Canada says the fire is getting larger but is not currently a threat to local communities.
"The fire has been growing under very dry and windy conditions, and has spread to the southeast, further into Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park," the agency said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"The fire is presently estimated to be between 2,500 and 3,000 hectares in size... There are presently 60 people and five helicopters deployed to manage this fire... As a precautionary measure, the Banff backcountry area closure will now include the Fatique Creek and Brewster Creek valley."
On its website, Sunshine Village says it's lucky that area between the fire and Sunshine is high alpine terrain, without much fuel for the fire to consume.
"Fortunately at Sunshine, due to our cut runs with little brush, we have plenty of defensible space to battle the flame," the website says.
Camping and hiking in both Kootenay and Banff national parks have been restricted because of the fire.
In Kootenay National Park, the Verdant Creek area as far south as Simpson River is closed.
In Banff National Park, the Egypt Lake area, Healy Pass, Citadel Pass and Sunshine Village and Meadows are closed.
Fire bans are in place for the front and backcountry areas of Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton Lakes national parks, as well as the Town of Banff and the Town of Canmore.
On Friday, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry issued a fire ban in the province's forest protection area that runs along the mountains and Foothills, from Highway 532 southward to the northern boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park.