‘Ev­Ery­thing’s ash’

Sta­bles lost to Water­ton fire

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - MEGHAN POTKINS

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

COuRTESY jENIKA WAT­SON

Alpine Sta­bles near the Water­ton town­site was de­stroyed by the Kenow wild­fire. The horses were re­lo­cated days be­fore­hand.

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