Controlled burn in Banff National Park blazes 'out of control'

Parks Canada issued a temporary evacuation order for residents, tourists, and livestock Wednesday at Rocky Mountain Resort that they rescinded later that day.

Controlled burn in Banff National Park blazes 'out of control'
Twitter/Louis Luna
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A federal equity program promoting “all genders” in firefighting lost control of a prescribed burn Wednesday that Canada Parks admitted went “out of control.”

The controlled blaze occurred Wednesday at Banff National Park as part of Canada’s first-ever Women-in-Fire Training Exchange (WTREX), with 35 applicants present for training “with diversity and inclusion goals in mind.” 

According to the call for applicants, WTREX engaged participants of “all different genders, ethnic, and racial backgrounds” to explore the “growing role of women” in fire management while also serving as a training opportunity.”

Canada Parks said firefighters, with the assistance of five helicopters, contained the fire three hectares outside the prescribed burn area, as first reported by Counter Signal. “Around 1600, due to an unexpected shift in wind direction and speed, the fire escaped the predetermined boundary,” the federal agency stated.

Parks Canada issued a temporary evacuation order for residents, tourists, and livestock at Rocky Mountain Resort that they rescinded later that day.

“Evening precipitation has further assisted with suppression, and given current weather conditions and resources, the fire is not anticipated to grow beyond expected boundaries,” they tweeted. “Fire personnel will continue to work on the fire…as required.”

On Friday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith activated the Emergency Management Cabinet Committee in response to the current wildfire situations across the province. Department officials briefed the premier and the minister of public safety and emergency services on the evolving situation and committed to daily technical briefings to the media until its resolution.

There are currently 92 active wildfires in Alberta, 31 classified as out of control. Of the remaining fires, 17 are being held, and 44 are under control. 

As of the time of writing, Alberta Wildfire officials confirmed the ongoing fires had impacted approximately 43,000 hectares of land — well above the 800-hectare average expected for early May.

Rebel News asked the Alberta government about the burning exercise with over 13,000 Albertans displaced under ongoing evacuation orders throughout the province. A province-wide fire ban and a prohibition on off-road vehicles remain in place, with seven declared states of local emergency and one band council resolution.

“Prescribed burns are traditionally held earlier in the spring, where we can remove built-up fuels that could be used to draw a wildfire to [a populated area],” said a wildfire official. “It’s a very common practice.”

The official told Rebel Saturday that the purpose of a prescribed burn was to achieve several objectives, including mitigating the risk of wildfire in the Banff and Canmore area. However, they did not comment on the “appropriateness” of this particular exercise.

Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis added the province is focused on “protecting human life and property” and making available resources to temporarily displaced Albertans. “The federal government is on standby providing help, and we will use their resources if our officials have asked us to do so,” said Smith after the fact.

WTREX advocated for 50/50 gender representation among firefighters, calling the exchange program “a sign of progress” for the community.

“[Did you know] women are still underrepresented in the firefighting community?” said Parks Canada in March. “Diversity is the strength which is why #WTREXCanada empowers more women to become leaders in fire management!” 

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  • By Ezra Levant

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