Avalanche Path Serves as a Fire Break
WATERTON, Alta. — Crews battling a wildfire near the U.S. border in Alberta are hoping an avalanche path will prevent the flames from spreading further into a national park that was badly burned last year.
Dry and windy conditions Friday afternoon pushed the Boundary Wildfire north across the border for the first time into Waterton Lakes National Park in southwestern Alberta. John Stoesser, a spokesman for Parks Canada, says the flames have reached a stretch of mountainside that has been swept mostly bare of trees by winter avalanches.
Stoesser says sparks have crossed the avalanche zone and ignited spot fires on the eastern side. He says helicopters are dumping water on those spot fires to keep them from growing and burning further through the Boundary Valley towards the Waterton Valley.
"When the fire burns through those coniferous trees leading towards the avalanche path, those are a little bit more flammable. But then when it reaches that avalanche path, there's not as much trees there, there's not as much vegetation there so the fire activity slows right down when it gets to that line," Stoesser said in an interview Saturday.
"So that's why it's a good place to drop water from the helicopters."
Parks Canada said two helicopters were on the job at the avalanche boundary on Saturday and that a third was on its way.
Stoesser said it's an aerial effort at this point, since it's steep, rocky avalanche terrain. Once the flames are knocked down a bit, he said firefighters can go into the area and do what they can from the ground.
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