Forest fires burning near Banff National Park are contributing to the blanket of smoke over southern Alberta.
A fire that broke out on Friday night near Lac des Arcs, east of Canmore, was classified as having occurred on Saturday after burning 10 acres of forest (about the size of 15 city blocks).
Alberta Parks has closed the Razors Edge Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park due to the nearby fire.
Two other fires, about 60 kilometers north of the town of Banff and outside the national park border, continue to burn uncontrollably. These fires had consumed 100 hectares and 27 hectares on Saturday morning.
Derrick Forsythe, a wildfire information officer for the province, said the weather looked promising for the 384 wildland firefighters currently working in Alberta.
“We haven’t had any concerns about the weather expressed so far today. We always keep an eye out for it because it’s one of the things forest firefighters are trained to watch, because when the tide is turning, we have to be aware of what is going on while they are working on the fire, ”he said.
Evacuations underway in British Columbia
As of Saturday morning, 58 forest fires were burning in Alberta, three of which were out of control. Almost 50,000 hectares have burned in the province’s forest protection zones so far this year.
But much of the smoke that settled in Calgary and southern Alberta came from outside the province.
More than 20,000 properties in British Columbia were on evacuation order or on alert Saturday due to hundreds of fires, most of which were burning inside the province. There are also many large fires burning in the Northwestern United States.
And, with the wind expected to blow easterly throughout the weekend, a change in direction could see smoke drifting toward Alberta from the fires burning in northern Saskatchewan.
Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued air quality alerts for Calgary and southern Alberta. The Air Quality Health Index is expected to reach 7 – or high risk – in Calgary on Saturday night.
Scientists say extreme weather events like heat waves are becoming more frequent due to climate change, increasing the risk of forest fires as forests dry up and many fires are started by lightning.
Fire hazard ratings continue to be high across much of Alberta due to hot and dry conditions. Fire bans are in place for Banff, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks.