Crews working to extinguish wildfire burning in Jasper National Park

·2 min read
A lightning-caused wildfire on Chetamon Mountain in Jasper National Park has grown to more than 400 hectares as of Saturday morning. (Kevin Gedling/Parks Canada - image credit)
A lightning-caused wildfire on Chetamon Mountain in Jasper National Park has grown to more than 400 hectares as of Saturday morning. (Kevin Gedling/Parks Canada - image credit)

Fire crews are still trying to extinguish a large wildfire in Jasper National Park that has been burning for two days.

Lightning sparked a fire on Chetamon Mountain around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, and it had grown to more than 400 hectares as of Saturday morning, the national park said in a social media post.

The fire is well north of the Municipality of Jasper — about 315 kilometres southwest of Edmonton — and mostly spreading northeast, away from the community. No nearby communities are at risk, the post said.

However, the municipality did issue a statement on Facebook encouraging residents to prepare for a power outage. The post also said the municipality was working with ATCO to prepare for a switch to a power generator, if necessary.

Saturday morning, Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a special air quality statements for the Jasper area, as well as the Hinton-Grande Cache area, that are still in effect, however.

A thick plume of smoke, travelling through the Hinton area, is causing poor air quality and reduced visibility, the statement says.

People in the affected area may experience increased coughing, throat irritation, head aches, or shortness of breath, the weather agency said, adding that children, seniors and people with heart or lung disease are especially at risk.

On Friday, Parks Canada closed Snaring and Celestine Lake roads and the surrounding area, including nearby campgrounds. They also restricted aircraft take-off and landing at the Jasper air strip, according to two separate bulletins issued by the agency.

Parks Canada cited public safety during firefighting as the reason for the actions, each release said.

Anyone who violates the restrictions could be fined up to $25,000 under the Canada National Parks Act, the releases said.

The fire is burning on the mountain's upper slopes, making it inaccessible to firefighters on the ground, according to Jasper National Park.

Helicopters and air tankers have been working to douse the fire from above. Saturday morning, "specialized fire crews" started making fire control lines to protect the municipality of Jasper's electric power line.

Parks Canada will have a national incident management team in place Sunday to help with the emergency response.

The fire is located outside of Alberta Wildfire's forest protection area, but the agency is helping Parks Canada, according to the provincial wildfire dashboard.

There are about 50 other active wildfires burning throughout the province, according to the dashboard.

Alberta Wildfire has placed most of Alberta, including Jasper National Park, under fireban advisories, restrictions or bans.