Portal Creek fire out, province’s wild wildfire season continues
June 7, 2023 By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
It only took Parks Canada firefighting crews a few days to get the Portal Creek wildfire under control.
Starting on Saturday, the blaze grew to 1.7 ha as two helicopter crews and three ground crews worked to contain it.
That wildfire started a day after another one located north of the Snaring Overflow Campground was extinguished. That fire was approximately 0.2 ha in size.
“These ones were very, very small, and we were able to get on them fairly quickly,” said Janelle Verbruggen, Parks Canada Communications Officer with the Jasper Field Unit.
The Snaring wildfire was located on the CN right of way between the railway tracks and Highway 16. While the causes of both fires remain under investigation, there is evidence that the Portal Creek event started after a bear cub was electrocuted and found near the power pole at the fire source.
Ground crews will still be on the scene at Portal Creek for a few days as they finish the mop up.
“That’s where they’re really soaking that perimeter,” Verbruggen said. “They’re going to patrol the fire perimeter until we can call it extinguished, which is expected in a couple of days.”
That brings the wildfire count for Jasper National Park this year to three, starting with a tree that was struck by lightning at Wapiti Campground in early May.
The wildfire danger rating was at “very high” as of Tuesday afternoon. Verbruggen said that even though the fire ban was lifted two weeks ago, there are still many ways that the public can help out to prevent further wildfire events.
These ways include keeping campfires small and only in designated fire pits, keeping your campfire attended at all times and making sure to completely extinguish it afterward: soak it, stir it, and soak it again until the ashes are cooled.
Following these and other rules is key, Verbruggen said, as is following common sense.
“This was a bit of a given but don’t throw cigarettes on the ground,” she said, “and do not park in tall grass or off the road.”
People can report wildfires, illegal campfires or suspicious smoke to Parks Canada Dispatch at 780-852-6155 or by calling 911. The Dispatch is already aware of smoke that might drift in from wildfires in British Columbia. People can visit firesmoke.ca for a live smoke forecast and www.airquality.alberta.ca to learn more about the health risks associated with your local air quality.
Around Alberta, the provincial state of emergency expired at the end of day on June 3.
The Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard shows 65 active wildfires, 19 of which are out of control, including two in the Edson Forest Area: EWF031 in the Pembina Wildfire Complex and the other in the Deep Creek Complex. EWF031 is close to 131,000 ha in size.
The current tally for wildfires this year is now at 590 and more than 56 per cent were suspected to be caused by humans.
Evacuation orders remain in effect for the hamlet of Fort Chipewyan, Mikisew First Nation (Allison Bay, Dog Head and Devils Gate), Fort Chipewyan Metis Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Parts of Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation also remain under evacuation order. There are approximately 3,600 people affected by these evacuations.
More than 1.2 million ha have burned, a figure that is more than twice the size of the approximately 590,000 ha size of the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire. A wildfire that started near Pine Lake in Wood Buffalo National Park is still listed as “out of control,” growing to more than 12,000 ha.
The largest wildfire still burning in the province is HWF036 in the High Level Forest Area. It has grown to more than 152,000 ha and is listed as “out of control.” The cause is still under investigation.
Alberta currently has approximately 2,800 personnel working on wildfires, including support from partner agencies across Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as the Canadian Armed Forces.
Albertans are asked to do their part to prevent new wildfires by respecting fire bans or restrictions in their areas. Visit albertafirebans.ca for details.
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