Waterton remains under evacuation as Kenow wildfire grows to 8,500 hectares
Weather forecast calls for high winds on Saturday and Sunday, which is a concern for firefighters
An evacuation order is still in place for Waterton Lakes National Park, but officials said Saturday the Kenow wildfire remains almost entirely on the B.C. side of the continental divide, about 20 kilometres from the townsite in southwestern Alberta.
A spot fire about a half-hectare in size started on the east side of the divide near Sage Pass, which Parks Canada crews are attacking, said area commander Rick Kubian.
The current area of concern is the fire near Akamina Pass.
"It has the potential, over two low, forested passes, to move into Waterton Lakes National Park and the potential to threaten the townsite," said Kubian.
The fire had grown to about 8,500 hectares by Saturday morning, mainly in the Flathead Valley of British Columbia.
This weather forecast for this weekend called for "substantial winds" on Saturday and Sunday, which is a concern, said Kubian.
"We are expecting there is a good probability the fire will spread from the west to the east and our crews are prepared to deal with that eventuality and feel well positioned that we have the resources on hand to do our very best to manage the fire underneath those conditions."
The mandatory evacuation order was issued Friday afternoon.
An evacuation centre has been set up at Vertical Church in Pincher Creek, Alta., and as of Saturday morning, 10 people had registered.
One reason for that low number, said Parks Canada spokesperson Natalie Fay, is that an evacuation alert was issued earlier this week, prompting many people to leave the park.
Alberta Environment and Parks said 41 firefighters and six firefighting vehicles have been deployed from other departments to help in Waterton.
Calgary fire chief Steve Dongworth said three heavy trucks and about 20 personnel were dispatched to Waterton Lakes on Friday to assist with protecting buildings and other structures if the wildfire enters the townsite.
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