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Evacuations mount as wildfire spreads

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WATERTON, Alta.—A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for part of a southwestern Alberta First Nation because of a wildfire that's threatening Waterton Lakes National Park.

The Blood Tribe, southwest of Lethbridge, issued the order early this morning for homes and apartments in Zone 1 of the Blood Reserve, and said residents of Zone 3 should be prepared to leave on short notice.

Evacuees are being asked to register at a multi-purpose building on the reserve.

Blood Tribe Fire Chief Oscar Cotton said Zone 1 is in the extreme southwest corner of the reserve.

“There's probably about 50 homes. What I can tell you is that our evacuation centre has about 100 people,” said Cotton, noting that Zone 3 is farther away from the fire and has about 150 homes.

The fire chief said the blaze is moving at a very rapid clip.

“At 4 a.m. [Tuesday], it was about five kilometres from the reserve,” noted Cotton.

“At the same time Monday, it was probably 20 or 30 kilometres.”

Cotton also said there is more than the threat of property damage for reserve residents to worry about.

“The only problem that we really have is the massive amount of smoke we're getting from that fire,” he remarked.

People were told to leave Waterton Lakes National Park late last week because of the fire.

Alberta Emergency Services issued a mandatory evacuation order late yesterday evening for residents of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9, located just north of the park.

As well, nearby Cardston County declared a state of emergency and told residents to head to the civic centre in the town of Cardston.

Parks Canada said as of yesterday, the Kenow fire had covered about 114 square km and moved 11.5 km down B.C.'s Akamina Valley over the past three days.

Parks Canada's Rick Kubian said he's expecting another two-three days of burning before rainy weather is forecast to sweep in later in the week.

“There is some relief in sight,” he noted.

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