Stables lost to Waterton fire
CALGARY — It’s the only place that Jenika Watson has ever thought of as home, and now officials have confirmed that Alpine Stables were destroyed this week when the Kenow Fire tore through parts of Waterton Lakes National Park.
The trail-riding outfit just outside the Waterton townsite was one of the casualties of the 36,000-hectare fire that continues to burn out of control.
“I just stare at the wall sometimes, going through cycles of disbelief,” said Watson, whose family has seen four generations lead horses and tourists through the trails and meadows in Waterton.
Watson’s family were permitted to return briefly Friday morning to visit what was left behind by the fire.
“It’s gone. It’s all gone, everything’s ash,” Watson said. “The whole thing is so surreal.”
Parks Canada has provided an overview of the damage done to the Waterton area by the wildfire.
Homes and businesses within the townsite were spared, but some park infrastructure was lost, including the Waterton Visitor Centre and the East Gate Warden Station, along with equipment and vehicles. Crandall Campground was also “significantly” impacted by the fire, Parks Canada said.
Saturday, the parks agency said a detailed assessment of the damage is still in the works and an evacuation order remains in effect for Waterton and part of the M.D. of Pincher Creek just north of the park.
Five homes and outbuildings were also lost north of the park in the M.D. of Pincher Creek.
Watson said her family were able to relocate their horses safely last week before the mandatory evacuation order was issued for Waterton. But once the fire escalated and threatened the town, she said a lack of communication from Parks Canada left the family wondering what had happened to their property. She said they only learned that the stables had burned down from someone working on the ground.
“My mom got a call from the Alberta environment minister (Shannon Phillips) before they heard from the park,” she said.
Watson said it’s been difficult to think about moving on or rebuilding with the devastation still so fresh.
And she’ll miss the early mornings at the stables, rising early to feed the horses in the shadow of Vimy Peak.
“Every day I knew I was lucky. It was the most beautiful place.”
The size of the Kenow fire has been stable since Wednesday, though the fire has received “only minor precipitation over the last few days,” Parks Canada said Saturday.
“Increased temperatures, drier conditions and increased wind are forecasted for this weekend. Fire behaviour and activity has the potential to increase with these conditions,” Parks said. @mpotkins
Alpine Stables near the Waterton townsite was destroyed by the Kenow wildfire. The horses were relocated days beforehand.