Parks Canada waiting for winter to dampen wildfire

The Chetamon wildfire received precious little precipitation over the weekend, despite the healthy autumn rainfall and the snowfall that the townsite saw over the weekend and into the early part of this week.

That means not much has changed in terms of the wildfire and nothing has changed in terms of its status.

“We have seen some moderate fire activity; nothing that wasn't unanticipated,” said Katie Ellsworth, fire management officer for Parks Canada.

The estimated wildfire size is approximately 6,450 hectares, and there has been no significant growth in suppression zones of the wildfire since Sept. 11.

Until a minimum of 25 millimetres of either rain or snow falls on the wildfire, the status will remain as being held.

The Jasper Warden Station recorded more than 15 millimetres of rain between Oct. 27 and 28, with an additional 1.5 millimetres of rain on Oct. 30 and four millimetres of snow on Oct. 31.

Parks Canada wasn’t able to confirm if any of Monday’s snow fell at the Devona station by press time. It did record approximately two millimeters of precipitation on Oct. 27, with the satellite camera at that station showing that it came as snow instead of rain.

That’s pretty dry considering the rest of the park saw three times that much. The fire is still “puffing” in places, so Parks Canada remains hopeful for the onset of winter conditions and “a good dump of snow at some point.”

“This has been a persistent issue: there's just a lack of precipitation,” Ellsworth said. “It's definitely an area that doesn't get as much rain and just has more of those organics deep in the layers to keep burning.”

The relative lack of changing conditions means that there has been light surface fire behaviour that is consistent with that of previous weeks. Since the wildfire hasn’t shown any aggressive behaviour, and also since the weather is turning, Parks Canada released the helicopter as of Oct. 27 as well.

“We have an opportunity to recall it should we need it again to bucket in those areas,” Ellsworth said.

Parks is changing out its old precipitation sensors for new ones in order to offer the most accurate observations of rain and snow throughout the coming winter.

For the time being, the management of the Chetamon Wildfire is a game of watching and waiting.

“We'll just keep watching it until the big snow happens,” Ellsworth said.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh