Safety concern closes southwest Alberta forests

August 1, 2007

Fire restrictions applied to forests in neighbouring areas

Edmonton... Due to extreme wildfire hazard conditions, public access to part of southwest Alberta's forests is prohibited under an Alberta government area closure order effective noon on Wednesday, August 1.

Area Closure

The area closure applies to the forested area in part of Poll Haven and from the northern border of Waterton Lakes National Park extending northward to just west of Nanton (see map), including provincial parks. Certain roads in the area are closed (see below). The order bans or restricts all recreational, industrial and travel activities within the affected area.

Extended fire ban

In addition, the Alberta government has prohibited all outdoor fires throughout the closure area, in the remainder of Poll Haven and from the northern border of Waterton Lakes National Park extending north to west of Sundre. The fire ban prohibits the use of all wood, briquette and propane or natural gas fires, including those contained within designated fire facilities. Gas and propane stoves, when designed for cooking, will be allowed.

Forests in southwest Alberta are tinder dry and the wildfire hazard is rated as more extreme than in 2003, when the 54,000-hectare Lost Creek wildfire burned out of control in the Crowsnest Pass area for 26 days.

"Area closures are not done lightly," Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton said. "The protection of human lives and communities are our top priorities. We are asking for everyone's cooperation in following these safety restrictions."

The order prohibits public access to the area except for residents and other authorized personnel, who require a permit to travel in the closed area. Permits are free and available from Sustainable Resource Development offices in Calgary and Blairmore.

Wildfire hazard levels and forest conditions are being evaluated on a daily basis. The area closure order and fire ban will be removed when conditions warrant.

Road closures

  • Provincial Highway 774 - closed south of the Forest Reserve Boundary.
  • Forestry Trunk Road - closed from the Forest Reserve Boundary north of Coleman to the junction of Highway 532.
  • Livingstone Gap Road (from Oldman River to Livingstone Gap) - closed west from the Forest Reserve Boundary.
  • The following roads are closed at the Forest Reserve Boundary off Highway 3: Tent Mountain Road, Atlas Road, McGillivray Road, Adanac Road, Satoris Road and Tapay Road. Road closures may be manned.

Safety concern closes southwest Alberta forests

Highway 3, Highway 22 and Highway 520 are not affected by the closure.

The Alberta Motor Association has a toll-free road reports line. Please call 1 (877) 262-4997 for updates, or visit http://www.ama.ab.ca/ and click on AMA Road Reports.

Park and recreation area closures (Updated August 1)

Beaver Mines Lake Provincial Recreation Area

Oldman River North Provincial Recreation Area

Castle Falls Provincial Recreation Area

Racehorse Provincial Recreation Area

Castle River Bridge Provincial Recreation Area

Syncline Provincial Recreation Area

Chinook Provincial Recreation Area

Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park

Dutch Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Bob Creek Wildland Provincial Park

Honeymoon Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Beehive Natural Area

Island Lake Provincial Recreation Area

Mt. Livingstone Natural Area

Livingstone Falls Provincial Recreation Area

Black Creek Heritage Rangeland

Lynx Creek Provincial Recreation Area

 

Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture has also expanded the fire ban in provincial parks and recreation areas in the region. There are 104 sites under a total fire ban (see backgrounder, attached).

There are many areas outside of the closed area that are open. Visit http://www.albertaparks.ca/ for an updated listing of fire bans and closures within provincial protected areas.

For current government-wide information and contact links to all related wildfire issues, please go directly to the Government of Alberta website located at http://www.alberta.ca/ or visit the Sustainable Resource Development website at http://www.srd.alberta.ca/. For fire ban information, visit http://www.albertafirebans.ca/.

Up-to-date information on the closure order and wildfire ban is available by calling 1-866-FYI-FIRE (1- 866-394-3473).

To report a wildfire call 310-FIRE (310-3473).

The area closure and campfire restrictions are key actions under Premier Stelmach's plan to provide safe and secure communities. Other priorities for the government are to improve Albertans' quality of life, manage growth pressures, govern with integrity and transparency and build a stronger Alberta.

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Attachments: Map of area closure and fire ban areas attached.

Media enquiries may be directed to:

For fire information:
Wildfire Information Officer
Sustainable Resource Development
Edmonton
(780) 420-1968

For provincial park information:
Erin Mikaluk
Public Affairs Officer
Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture
(780) 427-6530

Other inquiries:
Joan McCracken
Assistant Director, Communications
Sustainable Resource Development
(780) 427-8636

For transportation information:
Terry Becker
Operations Manager
Infrastructure and Transportation
(403) 380-5821

To call toll-free within Alberta dial 310-0000.

Backgrounder


Additional Provincial Parks and Recreation Areas under fire ban

Big Elbow Provincial Recreation Area

Bluerock Wildland Park

Bow Valley Provincial Park

Bow Valley Provincial Recreation Area

Bow Valley Wildland Park

Bragg Creek Provincial Park

Burnt Timber Provincial Recreation Area

Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park

Cat Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Cataract Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Cobble Flats Provincial Recreation Area

Crane Meadow Provincial Recreation Area

Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Dawson Provincial Recreation Area

Don Getty Wildland Park

Elbow-Sheep Wildland Park

Elbow Falls Provincial Recreation Area

Elbow River Launch Provincial Recreation Area

Elbow River Provincial Recreation Area

Etherington Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreation Area

Eyrie Gap Provincial Recreation Area

Fallen Timber Provincial Recreation Area

Fallen Timber South Provincial Recreation Area

Fir Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Fisher Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Fitzsimmons Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Ghost Airstrip Provincial Recreation Area

Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area

Gooseberry Provincial Recreation Area

Heart Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Highwood Compound Provincial Recreation Area

Highwood Junction Provincial Recreation Area

Highwood Provincial Recreation Area

Indian Graves Provincial Recreation Area

Ing's Mine Provincial Recreation Area

Jumpingpound Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Lantern Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Lineham Provincial Recreation Area

Little Elbow Provincial Recreation Area

Lusk Creek Provincial Recreation Area

McLean Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Mesa Butte Provincial Recreation Area

Mist Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Moose Mountain Trailhead Provincial Recreation Area

North Fork Provincial Recreation Area

Old Baldy Pass Trail Provincial Recreation Area

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Picklejar Provincial Recreation Area

Pine Grove Provincial Recreation Area

Pinetop Provincial Recreation Area

Sentinel Provincial Recreation Area

Sheep River Provincial Park

Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area

Sibbald Meadows Pond Provincial Recreation Area

Sibbald Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area

South Ghost Provincial Recreation Area

Spray Valley Provincial Park

Stoney Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Strawberry Provincial Recreation Area

Trout Pond Provincial Recreation Area

Waiparous Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area

Waiparous Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Waiparous Valley Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area

Ware Creek Provincial Recreation Area

West Bragg Creek Provincial Recreation Area

Wildhorse Provincial Recreation Area

Wolf Creek Provincial Recreation Area

For provincial park information:

Erin Mikaluk
Public Affairs Officer
Alberta Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture
(780) 427-6530

To call toll-free within Alberta dial 310-0000.

Backgrounder


Area and road closures and expanded fire ban

Q: What is happening?

Two things are happening. First, extreme wildfire hazard has created a situation requiring forests to be closed and recreational, industrial and travel activities to be banned or restricted within the Forest Protection Area. Some provincial highways and local roads in the area will also be closed.

Second, a fire ban suspends all fire permits previously issued, requires all outdoor fires that are currently burning to be extinguished, and it prohibits the lighting of outdoor fires. This fire ban prohibits the use of all wood, briquette and propane/natural gas fires, including those contained within designated fire facilities. Only gas and propane stoves that are designed for cooking will be allowed.

Q: What is the affected area?

The closed area includes part of Poll Haven and extends from the forested area in the northern boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park to just west of Nanton. The closed area covers over 332,000 hectares. This is an area about five times larger than the city of Calgary.

The fire ban covers a more extensive area from the northern boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park north to an area west of Sundre.

Q: What municipalities are affected?

  1. Cardston County (includes Poll Haven)
  2. Municipal District of Pincher Creek
  3. Municipality of Crowsnest Pass
  4. Municipal District of Ranchlands

Q: What roads and highways are affected?

  • Provincial Highway 774 - closed south of the Forest Reserve Boundary.
  • Forestry Trunk Road - closed from the Forest Reserve Boundary north of Coleman to the junction of Highway 532.
  • Livingstone Gap Road (previously Highway 517, from Oldman River to Livingstone Gap) - closed west from the Forest Reserve Boundary.
  • The following roads are closed at the Forest Reserve Boundary off Highway 3: Tent Mountain Road, Atlas Road, McGillivray Road, Adanac Road, Satoris Road and Tapay Road.

Road closures may be manned.

Highway 3, Highway 22 and Highway 520 are not affected by the closure.

The Alberta Motor Association has a toll-free road reports line. Please call 1 (877) 262-4997 for updates, or visit http://www.ama.ab.ca/ and click on AMA Road Reports.

Q: This seems like a large area. Has the province closed such a large area before?

The area closure in 2001 was larger than this one as it also included Kananaskis Country.

Q: Why is this happening?

The decision to implement an area closure and fire ban is made only after careful consideration of the wildfire risk and hazard levels for a specific area. This is a severe situation and the potential for extreme wildfire activity is high. The wildfire hazard levels currently in this area are higher than the levels recorded during 2003 when the Lost Creek wildfire threatened a number of communities. The protection of human lives and communities is the government's top fire-fighting priority. We are asking for everyone's cooperation to help ensure that people are safe and our communities and forests are protected from the risk of wildfire.

Q: Who is affected?

Anyone in the closed area and anyone planning to visit the closed area are affected.

Q: How long will this last?

A significant amount of rainfall would be needed in order to reduce the wildfire hazard. The situation will be monitored daily and as conditions allow, restrictions will be lifted.

Q: I live in the closure area. What does this mean for me?

You must obtain a permit from Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) to be able to travel to and from your residence.

Q: I work in the area. What does this mean for me?

To determine if you are eligible to receive a permit to continue to work in the area during the closure, please visit a SRD office. A government-industry liaison will be working with industries in the area to keep them informed.

Q: How do I get a permit?

There will be two places where you can go to obtain free access permits:

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development - Forestry Office
8660 Bearspaw Dam Road
Calgary, AB
Phone: (403) 297-8800

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
Blairmore Ranger Station
11901 - 19 Avenue
Blairmore, AB
Phone: (403) 562-3210

Q: What are the restricted activities?

The area closure is in place because of extreme wildfire hazard conditions. All activities are restricted. Any industrial activity questions can be directed to the local SRD office.

Q: What is allowed?

Travel or work activities are not allowed without a permit.

Q: What if I have an important event scheduled within the closed area?

You will have to reschedule or move the event to another location.

Q: I prepaid for a recreational backcountry activity. Will I get a refund?

Please contact the particular vendor to determine your eligibility for refunds.

Q: I operate a business in the affected area. Will I be compensated for the loss of revenue?

The province does not have a program to compensate businesses for a loss of income as a result of area closures.

Q: I was planning to go camping in the area, where do I go now?

There are many areas outside of the closed area that are open. Visit http://www.albertaparks.ca/ for an updated listing of fire bans and closures within provincial protected areas.

Q: Will Visitor Information Centres have fire ban and closure information available?

Yes.

Q: I'm planning to go to Waterton Lakes National Park. Can I still go?

Travel is not restricted to get there. For more information on the National Park, you are advised to contact National Park officials.

Q: Someone I know is currently in the backcountry of this area and does not have access to a phone. How can I be assured of his/her safety?

Our staff will be patrolling the area and those in the area will have to leave.

Q: I left my travel trailer set up in the closed area. What now?

You will need to visit an SRD office to get a permit to go into the area and retrieve it.

Q: Do these restrictions apply to private land?

There are some parcels of private land in the closure area. Unless it's your primary residence, access will be denied. Please check at an SRD office to see if you are eligible for a permit.

Q: How will this closure and fire ban be enforced?

Provincial resources will be used and redeployed where necessary to enforce the closure and fire ban for the safety of Albertans and communities.

Q: Is this closure and fire ban going to strain government resources?

The closure allows for provincial staff to be relocated to where they are needed most.

Q: Under what legislation is this authorized?

This is authorized under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act, the Provincial Parks Act and the Wilderness Area, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act.

Q: What are the penalties for failing to comply with the closure and fire ban?

Those who do not abide by the rules set out under the closure and fire ban may be fined up to $5,000. If their activity leads to a wildfire, they may be held accountable for the loss of timber and the costs associated with the suppression of the wildfire.

Q: How will I learn when the fire ban and closure is over?

Wildfire officials are evaluating conditions on a daily basis and the fire ban and closure will be lifted as quickly as conditions allow. When it's lifted, there will be a news release, public service announcements on the radio, a website announcement and staff will inform the public during their normal course of work.

Q: Where can I get the most up-to-date information?

Visit the Government of Alberta website at http://www.alberta.ca/ or call 1-866-FYI-FIRE (1-866 394-3473) for an update.

The Alberta Motor Association has a toll-free road reports line: 1-877-262-4997 or visit http://www.ama.ab.ca/ and click on AMA Road Reports.