Smoke is seen rising in front of the sun as a wild fire burns near Little Fort, B.C. Fifty experts from Australia are expected to arrive today to help with the wildfire battle in British Columbia’s central and southern Interior. Fire information officer Navi Saini says they’ll put the Australians where the need is greatest, taking advantage of their expertise in equipment, technology and logistical support. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Wildfire danger prompts fire bans in Alberta; air quality warnings issued

CALGARY — Fire bans were in place in many areas of Alberta on Wednesday as hot, dry conditions raised the risk of wildfires and one blaze scorched an area not far from a popular Rocky Mountain ski and hiking resort.

One of the bans announced by the Alberta government is for a protected area that stretches along the foothills and mountains in the province’s southwest.

No fires, including in campgrounds, are allowed. But stoves, barbecues and portable fire pits powered by gas or propane are permitted.

“Continued hot and dry weather has elevated the fire hazard to extreme levels in some areas of the province, so we are taking this proactive step to help ensure the safety of Albertans and protect our forested areas,” Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier said in a release.

Anyone violating bans or restrictions could get a $287 ticket.

Fires also were prohibited in all backcountry campgrounds in the provincial parks that make up the rugged recreational area of Kananaskis Country west of Calgary.

Banff, Jasper and Waterton Lakes national parks also had fire bans in place, as did Kootenay and Yoho across the boundary in British Columbia.

Portions of Banff and Kootenay national parks and Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park were still closed because of a wildfire on the B.C. side.

Parks Canada said 60 people and five helicopters were fighting the Verdant Creek blaze, which was estimated to cover between 25 and 30 square kilometres.

The fire was about 25 kilometres from the Rocky Mountain tourist town of Banff and 2 1/2 kilometres from the Sunshine Village ski area.

“Thankfully, the area between the fire and Sunshine is high alpine terrain, with little fuel for the fire to consume,” the resort said on its website Tuesday.

“Fortunately at Sunshine, due to our cut runs with little brush, we have plenty of defensible space to battle the flame.”

It said Parks Canada was working hard to prevent the fire from spreading into Sunshine Meadows with its scenic hiking trails or into the village itself, which has a day lodge, hotel and restaurants.

Hoses, sprinklers and other fire-fighting equipment have been brought in as a precaution. The lodge remains open for guests, but hiking trails are closed.

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