Kenow Fire burns through Waterton; Prince of Wales hotel OK

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The Kenow Fire burned through and beyond Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada on Monday.

Most structures, including the Prince of Wales Hotel, were saved, but the visitor centre at the Park’s entrance burned down.

The Kenow Fire firmly established itself in Waterton Monday afternoon after burning over Akamina Pass. Adjacent municipalities were alerted that the fire was moving. The wildfire demonstrated extreme fire behavior for many hours due to high winds and critically dry fuels, fire managers said.

Burning intensified and the fire moved northeast down the Cameron Valley along the Akamina Parkway. Later in the evening, fire became visible from the townsite and then on the north side of Crandell Mountain. The fire began to move north at a high rate of spread through the grasslands along the park’s Entrance Road.

Extensive fire protection measures were effective in safeguarding the majority of infrastructure and facilities within the community and at the Prince of Wales Hotel. Firefighters worked throughout the night to extinguish spot fires, monitor sprinkler protection, and protect facilities. High volume pumps and sprinkler systems, in combination with planning and fuel management done in previous years, ensured the townsite perimeter held.

They were expecting extremely dry conditions will influence fire behavior throughout Tuesday. Additional resources have been dispatched to assist.

The Chief Mountain border crossing was temporarily closed and the entire Waterton Park was closed, as were roads leading into the Park.

Video online showed the fire burning in several different areas of Waterton Tuesday.

Overnight, the fire moved north out of the park and into adjacent lands. Affected municipalities and local fire departments are managing those fires outside of the national park and forest protection area. Local evacuation orders are in effect. Parks Canada staff assisted police with the evacuation of residents adjacent to the park.

The wildfire is still affecting many backcountry and frontcountry areas in the park, including the Cameron Valley, the Crandell Mountain area, the Blakiston Valley and grasslands in the north of the park. Elsewhere in the park infrastructure has been compromised, though it wasn’t immediately clear what that means.

The fire also crossed into the Forest Protection Area in the Castle drainage area and is moving upslope. Airtankers and helicopters are working on this area of the fire, supported by heavy equipment group that is establishing predetermined containment lines to act as fire breaks.

There were several evacuations orders in place for communities outside the Park, and several schools were closed as well.

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