Alberta wildfire near Waterton could get worse, says Parks Canada

The wildfire burning near Waterton Lakes National Park could get worse Friday with forecasted weather conditions, according to Parks Canada. The province says it's prepared to help as hot and dry weather continues in southern Alberta.

Southern Alberta experiencing extreme fire conditions

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and fire information officer Matthew Anderson were in Lethbridge on Thursday giving an update on the wildfire situation in southern Alberta. (CBC)

The wildfire burning near Waterton Lakes National Park could get worse Friday with forecasted weather conditions, according to Parks Canada, but the province says it's prepared to help as hot and dry weather continues in southern Alberta.

The only fire burning out of control in Alberta is in the Slave Lake area, but conditions remain extreme in southern Alberta.

In the southwest corner of the province, Waterton Lakes National Park remains under evacuation alert as the Kenow wildfire in British Columbia closes in.

"Weather conditions are forecasted to change on Friday, which could lead to increased fire behaviour," Parks Canada said in a release.

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said at a Thursday news conference in Lethbridge that the situation is bad but the province is prepared.

"As we all know, dry and hot weather continues to be an issue here in southern Alberta. We are experiencing an extreme fire hazard to southern Alberta, including our provincial parks and our protected areas," Phillips said.

"Our government's highest priority is to protect Albertans and ensure our communities remain safe."

Alberta has closed more than a dozen provincial parks and campgrounds.

Wildfire information officer Matthew Anderson said rain in northern Alberta has meant fewer fires burning this year over less area; however, the season isn't over and southern Alberta is a concern.

Only 16 tickets issued for ban violations

Albertans are respecting the ban on campfires and off-highway vehicles, as well as forest area closures, he said. So far, enforcement officers have issued only 16 tickets and 29 warnings.

"Our numbers are holding steady. We've had very few starts, and that's thanks to the co-operation of Albertans in following the fire restriction, the fire ban and now the forest closure — helping us out and reducing the risk."

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

An Alberta representative is working with Parks Canada in Waterton, and 240 forest firefighters are nearby in the region with 24 helicopters and five air tankers.

Currently, Waterton Lakes National Park is closed with the following exceptions: the townsite, Highways 5 and 6, including the entrance road to the townsite, and Chief Mountain Highway.

"We encourage people to visit alternative destinations if they do not have an immediate need to be here," Parks Canada said.

Updated evacuation information can be viewed here.

Special air quality statement

Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement Thursday afternoon for the Calgary area and parts of southwestern Alberta.

"Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk," the agency said.

"People with lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, can be particularly sensitive to air pollution. They will generally experience more serious health effects at lower levels. Pollution can aggravate their diseases, leading to increased medication use, doctor and emergency room visits, and hospital visits."

Environment Canada's Dan Kulak says the area can expect more warm and dry weather.

"Temperatures are what you would expect perhaps in late July or early August rather than what you would expect in the early to even pushing into the middle part of September, with not a lot of precipitation showing up."