Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Saskatchewan Crossing Wildfire

Driving through Banff National Park in Alberta we crossed the North Saskatchewan River and thought we saw fog hanging over the river valley.  My wife wanted a picture and so we turned around at The Crossing near the junction of Highways 97 and 11, but realized there that what we had seen was not fog but smoke from a fire.  There was a ranger at The Crossing giving details of the fire to those who were interested and signs warning about smoke along Highway 11, the road to Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer.

We decided to travel down Highway 11, the David Thompson Highway, a ways to see if any of the fire was visible from the road.  At first we saw only burnt-over areas with occasional burst of flame at quite a distance from the road and on the other side of the river, but as we went further the smoke became heavier and we saw helicopters dipping huge buckets in the river to dump on the fire.  We stopped to photograph them when suddenly the wind kicked up and the fire was in the trees near the road.

We decided we had better get out of there and as we drove away the they were setting up barricades to close the road.  At that point a couple of motorcyclists who had passed us and disappeared into the smoke came hurrying back.  Well beyond the danger zone we stopped again and took pictures of the smoke which was not rising high into the atmosphere and blotting out the view to the east.  We learned later that the fire, started by lightning, was called the Spreading Creek Fire and burned about 17,000 acres.

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