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UPDATED: Cranbrook airport placed under evacuation alert due to St. Mary’s River wildfire

The Canadian Rockies International Airport north of Cranbrook has been placed on evacuation alert as the result of St. Mary’s River wildfire activity on Thursday and overnight Friday.
The Canadian Rockies International Airport north of Cranbrook has been placed on evacuation alert, along with 71 properties in the RDEK jurisdiction. Photo courtesy City of Cranbrook.

The Canadian Rockies International Airport north of Cranbrook has been placed on evacuation alert as the result of St. Mary’s River wildfire activity on Thursday and overnight Friday.

Additionally, nearly 100 properties on the west and and eastern flanks of the fire, as well as some on the east side of the Kootenay River, have been placed on evacuation alert by the RDEK.

“The airport being within the evacuation alert area is positive as the community here will be prepared to act accordingly if needed. This change of status, capturing YXC within the alert area will not impact flights as all required staffing and operational needs continue while on alert,” says Tristen Chernove, Airport Manager, Canadian Rockies International Airport. “As we’ve seen, flight cancellations can occur due to smoke, but most flights have been operating and we expect on time scheduled flights to be continuing.”

The Cranbrook fire department has been mobilized for structure protection on critical assets at the airport.

Anyone flying into or out of the Cranbrook airport is encouraged to check in with their air carrier about the status of their flights.

As of Friday morning, the fire is holding within established control lines, and there has been no impact to airport infrastructure or nearby structures.

The RDEK issued an evacuation alert Friday afternoon for properties around the Old Airport to Lakit Lake area, which includes:

• 8444, 8446, 8448, 8454 Highway 93/95

• 8346, 8350, 8354, 8563, 8580, 8584, 8585, 8588, 8590, 8594, 8601 Holmes Road

• 4742, 4785 Miller Road

Late Thursday, the RDEK’s evacuation alert for 71 extends beyond the Woods Corner West properties and includes:

• Clearview Road

• 8055 Highway 95A

• McGinty Road

• 3497, 3503, 3509, 3567, 3624, 3639, 3684, 3703, 3706, 3716, 3721, 3734, 3750, 3762 Mission-Wycliffe Road

• Pineridge Road

• Sommerfeldt Road

“Evacuation Alerts are intended to give residents time to prepare themselves and their properties in the event that conditions worsen,” said Loree Duczek, Regional Emergency Operations Centre Information Officer “Taking the time at this stage to put together important papers (like insurance papers), medications, valuables, supplies for children and pets, and other important items can make a huge difference if they need to leave on a moment’s notice.”

Over Thursday night, a BC Wildfire Service unit crew worked thorugh the night to contain the fire within cotrol lines established from the aiprot to Cherry Creek Ld Ranch Rd. junction.

Throughout Friday, crews will be conducting hand ignitions to any pockets of unburned fuel that exist within the fires edges and control lines.

The fire has grown to approximately 2,601 hectares largely driven by peak wildfire activity Wednesday afternoon and evening.

The BC Wildfire Service has issued an area restriction for to the north and west areas of the ʔaq̓am community.

An American unit crew arrived late Thursday, bringing the total ground operations tasked to the fire up to 182 personnel. Aircraft skimmers and helicopters are utilizing nearby water bodies as a water source. Anyone recreating on local lakes are asked to stay clear of aircraft that may be skimming off the water.

There are 16 pieces of heavy equipment assigned to the fire, while 57 structural protection personnel are on site, and have been deployed to areas of concern near the airport and Wycliffe Rd.

With the latest update, there are 105 properties in the RDEK jurisdiction under evacuation alert, and 15 under evacuation order.

In the n ʔaq̓am community, 52 homes are under evacuation order, and nine under evacuation alert.

“We are working closely with the BC Wildfire Service and ʔaq̓am as this is still very much an evolving situation,” adds Duczek. “We are once again urging all residents of the East Kootenay to register for the Regional Evacuation Notification System if they have not already done so. This is a free service that will immediately notify you if your property is the subject of an evacuation alert or order.

It can sometimes take several hours to complete a door-to-door notification, and this system can send thousands of notifications out in under a minute. It’s an incredibly helpful tool when every second counts.”

To register for the service, visit the RDEK website at

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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