Verdant Creek wildfire doubles in size to 11,000 hectares as crews set up command centre at Sunshine Village

The Verdant Creek wildfire burning out of control just across the Alberta border has more than doubled in size this week to cover an estimated 11,000 hectares.

Better wind conditions allow firefighters to battle blaze on the ground near Alberta-B.C. border

Sunshine Village, which is temporarily closed to guests, will be the home base and command centre for firefighters as they battle the Verdant Creek wildfire. (Emily Sinclair/Sunshine Village)

The Verdant Creek wildfire burning out of control just across the Alberta border has more than doubled in size since the beginning of the week to cover an estimated 11,000 hectares. 

The fire in Kootenay National Park and Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in British Columbia grew considerably at its southern end on Tuesday, said incident commander Jane Park with Parks Canada.

"With the hot and dry forecast for the future, we expect that this increased fire behaviour will continue for the foreseeable future," she said. 

The good news is that more favourable wind conditions allowed crews to get on the ground to directly attack the fire's northern flank on Tuesday.

Two days after it was evacuated over concerns that the wildfire was getting too close, Sunshine Village is being taken over as the command control centre for crews fighting the blaze.

The firefighters will stay at Sunshine Mountain Lodge and the resort's staff members, who were moved down to Banff, will come back up to host the crew members.

"Our goal is that by housing the fire fighters on-site, they'll be able to better access the firefighting regions and have a productive central command centre," Sunshine said on its website.

Park said one of the advantages of using Sunshine as a base is that there is less smoke on the fire's eastern edge.

There are about 80 personnel and eight aircraft trying to keep the 11,000-hectare Verdant Creek fire on the west side of the Continental Divide. (Parks Canada)

There are about 60 personnel and 10 helicopters fighting the fire. The key objectives are to keep it from moving farther north and crossing over to the east side of the Continental Divide, Park said. 

"We expect the number personnel to grow in the next couple of days," she said. 

Several days of hot, dry and windy conditions fuelled the fire's growth in the North Simpson area of Kootenay National Park, which is just across the Continental Divide from the skiing and hiking resort village in Banff National Park.

On Monday, Parks Canada ordered the evacuation of Sunshine Village resort for the second time in two weeks, but officials say the fire poses no threat at this point to the village or to any communities.

Assiniboine Lodge, which is about 30 kilometres south of Sunshine on the B.C side of the border, was also evacuated. 

Highway 93 is closed in both directions from the Alberta border to Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia because of reduced visibility caused by smoke, DriveBC says.

"The visibility on the road is quite poor right now and is a hazard to the public," Park said. 

Sunshine Village will remain closed at least until after the August long weekend.

"Once the fire is contained in the North Simpson region, we will reopen the Sunshine Mountain Lodge and Sunshine Meadows for guests," the resort said.

"It is our hope that we will reopen for commercial use early next week."

Parks Canada has ordered several closures in Banff National Park because of the Verdant Creek fire, including:

  • All trails in the Egypt Lake area
  • Healy Pass
  • Citadel Pass
  • Sunshine Meadows
  • Brewster Creek
  • Backcountry campgrounds Re16, E13 and E5 

A fire ban remains in effect in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks because of the elevated fire danger.

Smoke from the Verdant Creek wildfire billows just to the southwest of Sunshine Village on July 30, one day before Parks Canada ordered the resort to close down for the second time in two weeks. (Sabri Shawa)