Out for weeks

some parts of Water­ton park re­main un­safe af­ter wild­fire

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - MEGHAN POTKINS mpotkins@postmedia.com @mpotkins

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.

DAR­REN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

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.

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