An out-of-control wildfire north of Canmore, Alta., has expanded from 10 hectares to 346 hectares since it was discovered on Friday.
Listed as 120 hectares on Saturday, the expansion in size to 346 is attributed to forestry crews conducting back burning to secure a fire perimeter, according to a statement posted by the Municipal District of Bighorn.
“This wildfire is listed at out of control at approximately 346 hectares due to 40 kilometre per hour winds in the area and the aerial ignition operations that have occurred,” the statement reads.
On Friday, a group of four air tankers, two helicopters and 14 wildland firefighters were dispatched to fight the fire, located in the forest reserve near the base of Blackrock Mountain and at the west end of Township Road 270.
At the time, Alberta Wildfire said there was no risk to people or property, but that people in the area should stay aware of the situation as it evolves. An investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.
“The fire continues to increase in size but is moving towards the north and up the mountain slope,” an information alert issued at 7:46 p.m. Saturday read.
The road leading up to the wildfire was lined with campers on Saturday.
Sam McCrory was one of them. She said it was smoky when she first arrived but had since worsened.
“Yeah, it was decently smoky, but not like it is right now,” she said.
Wildfire information officer Travis Fairweather said on Saturday evening there were no evacuation orders in place — but Alberta Parks was ready to coordinate if needed.
“As long as the sun is up they’ll be working on it. Fortunately, today we saw most of the growth was on the north end of the fire, so kind of moving up the slope. And the area of concern is to the southeast. So that was certainly a good sign.”
Fairweather said conditions were favourable on Saturday to “fight fire with fire” and remove potential fuel that could allow the fire to spread.
“What that means is they’ll burn out some of the trees that might be in the path of the wildfire … with the right wind conditions they will be able to do that,” he said.
Firefighters, helicopters and airtankers are fighting an out of control wildfire north of Banff National Park near Black Rock Mountain. This wildfire is currently 120 ha in size and is not threatening any communities or camping sites. <a href=”https://t.co/ArsrM6LISH”>pic.twitter.com/ArsrM6LISH</a>
“It will put a lot of extra smoke up into the air that will be visible by people, but that is very normal for this time of operation and shouldn’t be of concern to people.”
Alberta Wildfire rated the fire danger in the southern Rockies as high to extreme on Saturday morning, and low to moderate elsewhere in the province.
A fire advisory is in place for the MD of Bighorn.
Much of the area surrounding Calgary and large swathes of southern Alberta are currently under fire bans.
There have been a total of 598 wildfires so far this year in Alberta with two months left to go in wildfire season. There were 989 total wildfires last year. The five-year average is 1,277, according to Alberta Wildfire.