Wildfire causes closure of B.C. highway

BANFF — The highway that winds through British Columbia’s Kootenay National Park has been closed indefinitely as wildfire smoke makes for dangerous driving conditions.

Parks Canada said Wednesday that Highway 93 has been closed from Castle Junction near the Trans-Canada Highway to the town of Radium Hot Springs some 100 kilometres south.

Incident commander Jane Park said the smoke is extremely dense in some areas.

“The visibility is definitely under 100 metres, some places probably under 50 metres,” she said.

The Verdant Creek wildfire burning just west of the Alberta-B.C. boundary has shuttered British Columbia’s Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park and closed parts of Banff and Kootenay national parks.

Park said the fire now covers an estimated 110 square kilometres — double previous estimates.

“That’s significantly larger than the last estimate mostly due to the fact that we were unable to get to the southern end of the fire to do accurate mapping due to smoke,” she said.

The fire has also closed the Sunshine Village resort in Banff to visitors.

Parks Canada ordered the resort to clear out guests nearly two weeks ago to make room for firefighting crews and heavy machinery to fight the Verdant Creek wildfire a couple of kilometres away.

The resort reopened to guests three days later, but Sunshine Village said on Monday that hot, dry and windy weather was making the fire more active in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.

Park said starting Thursday, firefighters will once again be working out of Sunshine Village, where it is less smoky than the area of Kootenay National Park where they are currently based.

There are about 60 firefighters and 10 helicopters battling the fire, but Park said she is expecting that to increase in the coming days.

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