Out for weeks
some parts of Waterton park remain unsafe after wildfire
A steady rain fell on Waterton Thursday as evacuees and business owners learned it could still be weeks before they will be permitted to return home.
While evacuation orders ended or shrank in size for communities surrounding the national park, many Waterton residents are still waiting to hear updates on the condition of their homes.
“We just feel displaced and in limbo. You feel like your life is completely on hold,” said Waterton resident and business owner Dave Cruickshank. “We’ve had no communication with Parks Canada. They’ve done a wonderful job saving the townsite — but they’ve done a terrible job keeping people up to date on what’s happening.”
The Kenow fire continues to burn out of control over approximately 36,000 hectares.
Parks Canada officials say many areas within the park are still unsafe and that it could be weeks before anyone is allowed to return to their properties.
“People still need to remember that this is an active fire. It is still classified as being out of control,” said Natalie Fay, spokesperson for the agency.
“Parks Canada will communicate when it’s safe to go back, but right now, we’re still a ways away from that. So we just want to make sure that people know they should not be attempting to return to the park itself.”
Fay said an assessment is underway on the condition of the homes and businesses within the park and that residents and leaseholders will be informed as soon as possible.
Around six millimetres of rain fell overnight into Thursday, the first significant day of rain in the area since last July.
At the Vertical Church, the designated evacuation centre in Pincher Creek, senior pastor Chris Ney said the moisture is very much needed.
“I think everyone is hopeful that the rain will help (and) people are just waiting on getting the OK to go back home,” Ney said.
“We keep praying for heavier rain, more rain and that these guys can get this under control.”
Hundreds are still displaced from their homes in the Waterton townsite and the M.D. of Pincher Creek as the Kenow wildfire continues to burn out of control.
The evacuation area in the M.D. of Pincher Creek shrank significantly Thursday to allow all residents living north of Oil Basin Road, or Township Road 32, to return to their homes. Mandatory evacuation orders have also been lifted for Cardston County and the Blood reserve.
Blood Tribe spokesman Rick Tailfeathers said the reserve didn’t suffer any damage and that about 180 residents are now able to return home.
“It was really bad, ashes were coming down from the sky. But now the rain is coming, and it’s quite a relief for everyone here,” said Tailfeathers.
RCMP take down a road block at Highway 6 and 505 Thursday, as rain and cold weather in the Pincher Creek area has lead to a reduction of the evacuation zone around the Kenow wildfire.