Sorry NJ I couldn't resist starting a new thread Jasper is my home town don't ya know LOL, we go skating on Talbot Lake all the time. Pocahontas is about 15-20 minutes from Jasper


Mountains on fire

Robin Summerfield, Calgary Herald, Rick Pedersen, The Edmonton Journal
CanWest News Service, With files from The Canadian Press


Monday, July 28, 2003

Firefighters worked into the night Sunday battling a wildfire that threatened to destroy dozens of homes in the Crowsnest Pass area, as two separate forest fires burned out of control in Alberta.

About 100 people from Hillcrest, 140 kilometres southwest of Calgary, were ordered to leave by mid-afternoon as the fire roared through mountain terrain to within five kilometres of them.

All the town's 700 citizens were alerted to pack and be prepared to leave on an hour's notice. The fire appeared to have bypassed the town by late evening but it then forced more evacuations in a rural area further east.

To the north, Jasper residents were keeping an eye on a wildfire that threatened to close Highway 16 near the Miette Hot Springs turnoff.

"It is getting closer," said Tim McMurran at Pocahontas Bungalows, estimating the blaze was "maybe five kilometres " to the southwest. "It is burning towards us because the wind has shifted."

The Jasper townsite is not affected.

The fire began with a 400-hectare controlled burn in May on Syncline Ridge, 12 kilometres inside the park gates and near the highway.

Controlled fires are intended to prevent forest fires and maintain a cleared habitat suitable for large mammals including elk, moose, sheep, deer, wolves and grizzly bears.

The burn area smouldered harmlessly until last Thursday.

Then dry, hot weather and strong winds pushed the fire across the Rocky River to the northeast. Parks Canada notified area residents by Friday that it had become a wildfire.

Firefighters set preventive burns in front of the fire Sunday to contain it in the Rocky River Valley, away from the highway.

The fire near Hillcrest was more dangerous than the Jasper blaze, having grown to nearly 7,000 hectares from 3,600 on Friday night.

Many of the town's residents spent Sunday hosing down their homes and garages, loading up furniture and packing photographs, keepsakes and essentials into vehicles.

Those first on evacuation alert Saturday evening also spent much of Sunday bracing for the worst.

"We don't know what's going to happen. Maybe it will be here, maybe it won't," said Jerry Kumiszczo, 47.

His family and a dozen friends emptied their two-level, six-bedroom home of furniture and belongings on Sunday.

Kumiszczo, his wife Sheila and their two children Kyla, 18, and Chad, 15, have lived in the home for 14 years. On Saturday night, the family moved its 16 miniature horses and three miniature goats to another property.

"The sad thing is you want to take everything. You want every little thing, but you can't," Sheila said.

Firefighters setting up hoses around the property told the family their home, with its clay-tiled roof and brick sides, would be more resistant to the embers and flames.

"I feel sick but I keep telling myself it will be OK," Sheila said.

The Lost Creek Fire, named for the area it started in last Wednesday, has been burning six days and was showing no sign of easing on Sunday.

"So far this fire has had its way with us," said Richard Strickland, a fire information officer with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

"We are doing our best, but it would be nice to get some help from the weather," said Strickland.

At its peak speed Friday, the fire was estimated to be moving up to 27 metres per minute. Over the steep terrain and thick brush, the fire would easily outpace a person running. The fire's speed rises and slows according to terrain, temperature, wind speed and direction and other factors.

While fire crews, helicopters and water bombers continued to attack the blaze from its flanks, teams built fire breaks to protect the evacuated homes and the community.

No homes or buildings have yet burned in the blaze. However, two camper trailers and a quad burned up in a campground on the first day of the blaze.

Four hundred personnel are working on the fire and more reinforcements are expected to arrive today.

Temperatures hit 32 C Sunday and 15- to 20-kilometre- an-hour winds with gusts up to 30 km/h blew throughout the day.

Crowsnest Pass Mayor John Irwin toured the fire zone by helicopter for an hour Sunday.

"It's burning hard and it's burning fast," Irwin said. "The smoke was billowing up and there's spotting as far as a quarter mile ahead, so that's really scary. It's a great concern."

Irwin, whose home is also in Hillcrest, said people in the community are helping one another move furniture and belongings, and offering displaced residents beds to sleep in.

"That's pretty typical of folks here," Irwin said.

A reception area has been set up for evacuees inside the Crowsnest Centre.

Homes were also being threatened by fire in southwestern British Columbia on Sunday.

One resident was forced to leave his home in Chilko Lake, B.C., and 17 others were put on alert after a forest fire near the town continued to grow on Sunday.

About 120 firefighters were trying to isolate the 35-square-kilometre blaze, up from 26 square kilometres on Saturday. The fire is about 20- per-cent contained, fire information officer Kilah Whitehead said Sunday.

British Columbia also sent a 20-person crew on Sunday to help battle the Farewell Creek fire in Washington State.

On Sunday that fire had engulfed 27 square kilometres and was eight kilometres from the southern B.C. town of Keremeos.

Also south of the border, a 76-square-kilometre fire was burning in the northwest corner of Montana's Glacier National Park, just 10 kilometres south of the Canadian border.

That fire has destroyed five homes, damaged one and burned 19 outbuildings. About 100 homes and cabins were still threatened Sunday.

"Winds have been picking up and they've been doing some burnouts around some houses," Jim Pudelka of the Flathead National Forest said Sunday afternoon.

"The Canadian government is a little worried about us burning clear up to them."

The Calgary Herald; The Edmonton Journal

Fire-breathing choppers join war
By PAUL COWAN, EDMONTON SUN

They're using fire to fight fire in Jasper National Park.

Parks Canada is using something called a "heli-torch" to set alight the forest around the Rocky River Valley, to create firebreaks in the path of a blaze which has burned through 5,000 hectares of woodland.

"It's quite an art form," said Dave Smith, Parks Canada fire and vegetation specialist for Jasper National Park.

"We have one helicopter which drops and ignites jelled gasoline with considerable accuracy, and four more with water buckets to control the fire.

"The mountainous nature of the terrain means using helicopters is better than having people on the ground."

The fire was started by Parks Canada as a controlled 400-hectare burn in the northeast of the park, in May, to create a fire break.

But last Thursday a change in the wind direction sent the fire down into the valley and within eight kilometres of a cottage complex near Miette hot springs.

"What we want to do is create a fire- break which will eliminate the fuels which could take a large fire into the Athabasca Valley and towards Hinton," explained Smith.

"Although the fire has moved outside the containment area, it is burning over an area where we planned further prescribed burns at a later date.

"As long as it stays in the valley, it is not out of control."

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the province there were 22 wildfires burning. Only the Lost Creek fire in the southwest of the province was considered a threat to any communities.

Provincial fire information officer Patrick Loewen said there was a cluster of fires in the High Level area. Most had been started by lightning.

"But it's worth pointing out that 408 of the 723 we have had this year have been human-caused," he added.

"It's doesn't take much to dry out ground fuels such as leaves, twigs and cones.

"People should be very careful."