As Jasper’s Chetamon wildfire grows, traffic and power could be affected

The Chetamon wildfire near Jasper, Alta. continues to surge and has now tripled in size from 400 hectares Saturday to 1500 hectares on Sunday.

Nearby communities, including the Jasper town site, are not at risk for evacuation, according to Parks Canada. However, a power outage is possible as the fire is now only 350 metres away from power lines.

A contingency plan is being co-ordinated and put in place by the town of Jasper, ATCO Electric and Parks Canada “to keep critical infrastructure up and running in the event of a power outage,” reads a release from Parks Canada Sunday afternoon.

Seven to 10 electric poles are burning, said Ellsworth and helicopters are dropping water on them. However, she said “it is important to remember that ATCO built these poles to withstand wildfires.”

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Hot and dry weather contributes to blazing fire north of Jasper

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People can prepare for a power outage by having backup batteries, secure alternative power sources and having flashlights ready, Parks Canada advised. An ATCO spokesperson said during the conference that they are prepared with backup generators to support critical infrastructure.

Hot and dry weather conditions are contributing to the growing fire, which was started by lightning on Thursday.

“The temperatures were upwards of 30 degrees Celsius, and the relative humidities were as low as 13 with a steady wind of about 10 to 15 kilometers an hour. So that rate of growth is not out of what would be expected given the fire behavior indices we have in the park,” said Katie Ellsworth, a national park fire management officer.

Fire fighters on the ground have been removed as it is no longer safe for them to be on the frontlines, said Ellsworth during a media conference on Sunday afternoon.

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“So our current priority, as it has been, is to ensure the safety of the community of Jasper and its residents.”

Traffic is also being affected by the smoke from the fire. 511 Alberta tweeted that visibility will be affected along Hwy. 16 in Jasper by Snaring Road starting Sunday afternoon.

Flagging and speed restrictions are in place.

Jasper mayor Richard Ireland, during the same press conference, encouraged residents and visitors in Jasper to abide by any closures and continue to provide Parks Canada personnel with space to work.

He also encouraged potential visitors from coming to Jasper and for those currently in the community to prepare themselves for a possible evacuation, however, the fire is not currently in position for that step to be taken.

More updates to come…

–With files from Nicole Stillger, Global News

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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