DEAD MAN'S FLATS – A wildfire near Dead Man’s Flats is now under control and not expected to grow after it led to sections of the Trans-Canada Highway being closed Friday night.
The cause of the fire, which was reported at about 4:30 p.m. Friday (Aug. 13), is still under investigation, but the province has confirmed a lightning strike has been ruled out as the cause.
Josee St-Onge, a provincial information officer with Alberta Wildfire’s prevention section, said the investigation is ongoing.
She stressed the importance of people being cautious within the entire Calgary Forest Area – which includes the Bow Valley – being under extreme wildfire risk.
“The fire danger in the Calgary Forest Area, where this wildfire is located, is extreme. In these conditions, a wildfire can start easily and spread very quickly," she said.
“We ask all Albertans to do their part to prevent wildfires," she added, noting 88 per cent of wildfires last year were human-caused.
St-Onge said no infrastructure or buildings were threatened from the wildfire and 26 provincial firefighters and a helicopter were on the scene as of Monday (Aug. 16).
They were focusing on “reinforcing the containment perimeter and extinguishing hot spots,” St-Onge said.
Derrick Forsythe, an information coordinator with Alberta Wildfire’s prevention section, said Wednesday (Aug. 18) said the environment it was in also assisted with helping to contain the fire.
“It wasn’t great ground for a fire to take off,” he said.
Forsythe said the rain earlier in the week also helped firefighting efforts.
It also aided in reducing the poor air quality, which for the Banff, Canmore and MD of Bighorn region was listed as a 10+ on the Air Quality Health Index run by the Canadian government.
Shortly after the wildfire was reported and confirmed, firefighting crews from Canmore Fire-Rescue and Exshaw Fire-Rescue arrived on the scene. Resources from Kananaskis Emergency Services were also provided and Alberta Forestry arrived on the scene.
Police from several RCMP detachments assisted as the highway on the east lane from Bow Valley Trail to Highway 1X was blocked for several hours Friday evening, but was reopened late Friday night. The west lane was also closed as of about 7 p.m., and one lane reopened late Friday night, while the other lane was being used by emergency crews.
The highway was fully reopened on Saturday and there were no evacuation concerns for the Town of Canmore.
According to the Alberta Wildfire status map, the fire began at an estimated 10 hectares in size and was reduced to six hectares by Saturday afternoon.
The fire is the second major one this summer after a wildfire began July 23 near Lac des Arcs that burned 4.4 hectares of forest being it was put under control.
The wildfire also had multiple fire departments, 46 provincial firefighters, police, a water truck, an air tanker and six helicopters called in to fight the blaze that began around the rock cut by the Trans-Canada Highway.
According to Canmore-based Alpine Helicopters, one of its pilots noticed smoke in the Dead Man's Flats area while picking up clients on a heli-hike at about 4:18 p.m. on Friday.
"The pilot immediately headed in that direction to investigate and after arriving overhead the pilot reported the fire to Calgary Forestry on their radio system," according to the company's Facebook post.
"The aircraft returned to the Canmore heliport for a water bucket and began making water drops on the fire."
With the base so close, Alpine Helicopters said it had the first aircraft at the scene and was the last helicopter to leave the fire at the end of legal daylight.
"It’s always rewarding to help our community and be part of the large team that responded to this event," according to Alpine Helicopters' post.
"Alpine had three aircraft on scene and one of our staff responded on the ground as a firefighter with Canmore Fire-Rescue."
At the time of the wildfire, the Calgary Forest Area had the danger listed as extreme for the entire region – which includes the Bow Valley – and under a fire ban until further notice.
However, following the rain on Tuesday (Aug. 17), the regionwas reduced to a low wildfire risk and the area fire ban was lifted.
“Over the past 24-48 hours, the Calgary Forest Area has received widespread rain across the area,” the organization stated in a media release. “This wide band of precipitation has dropped the fire danger to low.”