Verdant Creek wildfire continues to threaten key Alberta-B.C. highway

A wildfire burning near the Alberta-British Columbia boundary continues to threaten a key highway linking the two provinces.

Highway 93, which winds through British Columbia’s Kootenay National Park, has been closed off and on since the wildfire began.

Parks incident commander Jane Park says it was closed again temporarily over the long weekend because embers blowing across the road sparked spot fires.

Park says people should expect Highway 93 to continue to be affected by the fire which has been contained for now to around 13,000 hectares.

The Verdant Creek wildfire has shuttered British Columbia’s Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and closed parts of Banff and Kootenay national parks since it began burning in mid-July.

About 130 people and seven helicopters are currently battling the flames.

Crews have moved out of Banff’s Sunshine Valley resort, which had been used as a base, and are being repositioned, Park said.

“Our key objectives remain the same,” Park said at an update Tuesday. “Dealing with the (Highway) 93 south corridor, trying to keep that road open as we understand that it’s a very important connector from the Bow Valley into the Columbia Valley.”

While the wildfire may be disruptive to the public, Park said it’s not a bad thing for wildlife in the national parks. Fires sparked by lightning are common in the Kootenay Valley and the ecosystem bounces back quickly, she said.

“Fires like this do create a lot of grizzly bear habitat, habitat for … wolves,” Park said. “While obviously there are definite impacts to commercial operations in these areas, the benefits in the long term to the ecosystem are actually substantial.”

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