Forest fire east of Banff National Park now under control


Wildfire fighters have successfully brought a forest fire east of Banff National Park under control.

At around 4 p.m. on Friday (May 31), the six-hectare wildfire near the Ghost River in Bighorn, Maryland, was declared under control. It was first spotted by Alberta Wildfire Watch observers at around 5 a.m. on Thursday (May 30) and was initially reported as out of control at four hectares.

Melissa Story, Alberta Wildfire Provincial Information Officer, said the agency does not expect the fires to spread further.

“The wind will contribute to fire behavior, but for now we have it under control,” she said.

Alberta Wildfire is battling the fire with 20 wildfire fighters and helicopters. A fire truck is also on site to assist in firefighting efforts.

“Residents and visitors may see smoke in the area along the Ghost River,” says a press release from Bighorn MD, noting that Bighorn Emergency Services was also initially on scene to provide assistance.

The cause of the forest fire is currently being investigated. There is no danger to surrounding communities or infrastructure.

An Alberta Wildfire Update (CFA) for the Calgary Forest Area notes that the fire area consists primarily of fine fuels such as cut logs and dried grass.

The CFA has registered 38 fires since January 1, burning a total of 11.57 hectares. All but one of the fires has been extinguished.

The overall wildfire danger in the CFA – which extends from the south west of Pincher Creek to east of the Banff National Park boundary – is moderate, but some areas have a high wildfire risk.

“A break in precipitation, along with some warmer, windy days, has helped increase the overall wildfire danger,” an Alberta Wildfire update said. “Although the weather forecast calls for light precipitation in the short term, conditions appear to be largely stable over the coming week, resulting in a continued increase in wildfire danger.”

As of 4:30 p.m. May 31, there were 29 active wildfires in the province, 26 of which are considered under control and three are being controlled. Alberta Wildfire is also assisting with six wildfires outside of its forest protection area.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been 392 forest fires in the province, burning a total of 27,986 hectares.

Provincial officials warned earlier this week that the number of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes is increasing. Last week there was one wildfire sparked by lightning strikes, and by May 30 there were six.

“With lightning becoming more common during wildfire season, it is more important than ever that we do everything we can to prevent human-caused wildfires,” said Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks, in a recent update on the province's wildfires. “These preventable wildfires place unnecessary strain on resources and personnel already responding to numerous fires across the province.”

Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Rocky Mountain Outlook