This has been a very sad week for us watching Wateron Park go up in flames. It breakes my heart. As you know we spend a lot of time there, hiking, kayaking, and cross-country skiing. We have been hungry for information and have been glued to the web sites hoping for updates which are long coming. Yesterday I went for a drive with my friends to see how close we could get and see for ourselves what is going on. We do know that they were able to save the townsite including the Prince of Wales hotel but some of the outer buildings were burned.
Some of the photos below I got off the web sites and some I took yesterday. It was quite hazy and we were not exactly sure where the smoke was that we saw. As you know parts of Pincher Creek MD and Cardston County were under mandatory evacuation for safety purposes. As you see from the map (push the pause icon for a closer look), the fire did not progress too far into Cardston Country. It headed north east into Pincher Creek MD. Thank goodness they moved the bison out of the Buffalo Paddock. The map we saw on the 12th showed that hole in the center of the park also burned but now I see it didn’t.
Last nite we finally got some rain which has helped slow down the fire and given us a sense of relief that the very dry grasslands are now wet. We are about 37km from Waterton as the crow flies. We were never in danger but could have been if the wind had been constantly blowing west.
Update Sept 15 from Parks Canada web site:
We wish to remind the public that the Kenow Fire is still active in the area and within the park boundaries. Please note that the Evacuation Order is still in effect and the park remains closed to all incoming traffic except emergency vehicles and authorized personnel. Even though the townsite is no longer under threat, risks due to the active fire nearby and ongoing fire operations remain. Community members should not attempt to return to the area until advised by Parks Canada.
Through incredible firefighting efforts, we are pleased to confirm that no homes or businesses within the townsite have been lost or damaged due to fire. The main Prince of Wales Hotel building has not been impacted by fire, however some surrounding facilities are damaged. In addition, the Red Rock and Cameron Lake day-use areas and facilities, including the Alpine Club of Canada hut, have not been damaged due to fire. The Waterton Lakes Golf Course clubhouse sustained minor damage to the exterior.
Regrettably, despite our best efforts, some infrastructure in the park has been lost, including Alpine Stables. The Visitor Centre was also lost in the fire and the East Gate Warden Station sustained a total loss of the structure, equipment, and vehicles. Crandell Campground was significantly impacted by fire. Outlying infrastructure around the Parks Canada Operations Compound were impacted and the Bison Paddock suffered damage to the facilities and the fence.
Transmission lines from the park boundary to the townsite sustained significant damage. Parks Canada and Fortis are currently working together to restore power.
We continue to work to complete the detailed assessment, which includes identifying additional risks within the park. Due to the high intensity of the fire, there are a large number of danger trees, rock falls, and other hazards that remain throughout. Moreover, guardrails, signage, and other minor infrastructure were heavily impacted.