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Banff's out of control prescribed fire extinguished

A prescribed fire that got out of control near the Banff townsite has been extinguished.

BANFF – A prescribed fire that got out of control near the Banff townsite has been extinguished.

In its final update on the Compound Meadows prescribed burn, Parks Canada said rainfall and the work of fire personnel helped end the fire as of Thursday (May 11).

“The Compound Meadows area closure has now been lifted,” stated a media release from Parks Canada. “Please be mindful while recreating in this area and continue to exercise caution due to burnt-out trees and any other ground hazards related to the recent fire operations.”

According to the release, Banff National Park received 23.9 millimetres of rain between May 3 – when the fire got out of control – to May 11. Parks Canada also praised the work of fire personnel in getting the prescribed burn both under control and ultimately being put out.

Work for the prescribed burn began on May 3, but jumped from the west side of Banff Avenue to the east side. It was eventually contained to three hectares.

The out of control fire forced the evacuation of Banff Rocky Mountain Resort and Mount View Barbecue – a private event and reception area – as well as several horses from the Banff Light Horse Association corrals.

Guests were able to return on May 3, while horses were brought back to the corrals on May 7. However, three sheds burned down, including one that belonged to the Brewster family who lost several family heirlooms.

The iconic Bill Peyto entrance sign that welcomed people entering Banff was burned to the ground and minor damage to wildlife fencing along the Trans-Canada Highway and to Mountain View Cemetery also occurred.

The fire went out of control when crews were black-lining ­– the pre-burning of grasses and shrubs adjacent to a control line before igniting a prescribed burn – to protect the wildlife exclusion fence along the highway when the wind unexpectedly increased and flames spread to the other side of Banff Avenue.

@ropeadopeyyc Driving past a huge fire on the way home from a job site! #foryoupage #trending #fyp #scarytiktoks #wildfire #firefighter #alberta #banff #staysafe ♬ Summermode - Official Sound Studio

The wind speeds jumped from 10 km/h to 28 km/h, which wasn’t in the forecast, and the fire danger rating at the time was high with the temperature in the mid-20s Celsius.

The prescribed fire was scheduled to begin May 5, but was postponed until the fall or 2024. The intent of the burn is to protect Banff townsite from potential wildfire. Parks Canada successfully burned 125 hectares of the 300 hectares in the Compound Meadows prescribed burn in 2022.

Parks Canada will be completing an after-action review, which is conducted with all prescribed fires and wildfires.