Wildfire continues to threaten Waterton Lakes National Park but doesn't grow in size

Rain fell across southern Alberta overnight Saturday, except in the area where it was needed most — around Waterton Lakes National Park, which is on evacuation alert due to a wildfire burning a few kilometres south across the U.S. border.

“Unfortunately most of the precipitation that did fall last night was north of Waterton Park itself,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Alysa Pederson on Saturday.

“For this afternoon, we’re looking at a low chance [of rain]. There is a system moving in from B.C. that could give some rain or thundershowers to the region, but unfortunately it’s a little bit challenging to forecast because of the westerly winds.”

The chance of rain will increase throughout the day, said Pederson, and the westerly winds are expected to continue.

A low pressure system is also forecast to blow in on Sunday, bringing more much-needed rain to the southern half of the province.

“We should be getting more steady rain through all of western and southern Alberta,” said Pederson.

The 770 hectare fire — located just south of the Canada-U.S. border in the Boundary Creek Valley of Glacier National Park — remains about seven kilometres south of the Waterton townsite.

A map showing the fire in Glacier National Park, on the U.S. side of the border, near Waterton Lakes National Park. The area in red shows the current fire while the area in yellow shows where the Kenow wildfire burned last year. (Parks Canada)

Strong wind gusts prevented American crews from dropping water on the fire Friday, and they will re-assess on Saturday, said Parks Canada fire information officer John Stoesser in a statement.

An evacuation alert remains in effect for the area.

That means residents and visitors will be required to leave within one hour if an evacuation is ordered.

Parks Canada also ordered the entirety of Waterton Lakes National Park, including backcountry campsites and hiking trails, closed.

The townsite, Highways 5 and 6 and Chief Mountain Highway remained open.

Wardle fire under control

Officials said Saturday the Wardle wildfire, burning in Kootenay National Park in southeastern B.C., continues to be managed and did not spread overnight Friday.

As well, the Whitetail Creek wildfire, burning just west of the Wardle wildfire, grew from an estimated 100 hectares to 200 hectares overnight, within Kootenay National Park. Parks Canada crews continue to assist B.C. Wildfire Service crews battling the blaze.

Air quality statement

Another air quality statement was issued for most of the western side of Alberta, warning smoke from B.C. wildfires could reduce air quality.

Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.

“People with lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, can be particularly sensitive to air pollution. They will generally experience more serious health effects at lower levels. Pollution can aggravate their diseases, leading to increased medication use, doctor and emergency room visits, and hospital visits,” read the advisory.

“Stay inside if you have breathing difficulties. Find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner that cools and filters air may help. If you open the windows you may let in more polluted air. If your home isn’t air-conditioned, consider going to a public place (library, shopping mall, recreation centre) that is air-conditioned.”

In Calgary, the Air Quality Health Index sat at three on a scale of 10 at the noon hour Saturday, which is low to moderate risk.

The forecast calls for the AQHI to rise to seven on Saturday and then drop to four on Sunday.

With files from Anis Heydari

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