Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative reporter | [email protected]
“Now is not the time to visit Jasper.”
This same message was repeated by Mayor Richard Ireland, Parks Canada officials and Christine Nadon, the director of the municipality‘s Emergency Coordination Centre.
Although homes in the city have intermittent power and ATCO is working 24/7 to establish full and permanent power, Jasper has yet to declare a local state of emergency. .
Jasper is not at that threshold at present, officials say, nor does he need to be evacuated.
“As long as we can maintain critical infrastructure, as long as we have emergency water and sewage services, we don’t see the need to evacuate the community,” Nadon said.
“That’s our main priority along with restoring electricity to residents, of course.”
While many neighborhoods saw the power pass, some residences remained completely without electricity for more than 60 hours. Critical infrastructure sites such as hospital have priority over power supply. The municipality also resorted to installing the sewage treatment facility, still considered a critical infrastructure site, on its own generator to help ATCO get the rest of the city back on the grid. .
At Friday’s wildfire press conference, Mayor Richard Ireland said even that could change.
“We still don’t have a reliable and consistent generator provided by ATCO, and the community’s current electricity will be redirected to the sewage treatment plant if needed,” Ireland said.
“Additionally, if electricity demand exceeds capacity, we will need to make decisions to limit demand to ensure critical services can be sustained.”
The Chetamon wildfire is now believed to cover 5,600 hectares and is still taking place approximately 16 kilometers from the townsite. Parks Canada received another 25 firefighters on the ground, while helicopters continued their water drops.
Alberta Wildfire air tankers continue to conduct fire assessment and suppression overflights, making two successful fire retardant drops on Thursday at the northern end of the wildfire thanks to light winds.
A large scale, high volume sprinkler system is now in place in the Fire Guard area and has already been tested. It produces the equivalent of 30 millimeters of rain in less than an hour.
Forecasts call for clear skies and warm temperatures of around 20C this weekend, coupled with strong winds, but firefighting work is far from complete.
ATCO’s work is in the same precarious situation.
However, none of this means a local state of emergency.
“As long as we can continue to provide essential services, which we have a good level of confidence that we can … between our municipal generator power, private generators, and then ATCO support and equipment that is on site in Jasper right now, we’re pretty confident most people in Jasper can stay home,” Nadon said.
Nadon added that there is still running water from the taps and the sewage system is still operational.
“I think people just see this urgency, we’re emphasizing that this is an emergency, it’s not a small event – what I mean by that is the power outage combined with the wildfire,” she said.
“This is the largest wildfire we’ve seen across the landscape and in Jasper in years, and we need to be ready at all times to act on it. This is a serious situation, but we are not considering an evacuation process at this time.
With all the pressures from the wildfire, the temperamental return to full revitalization and continued tourism placing more electricity demands on the municipality’s power grid, Ireland repeated its message.
“Although we generally welcome visitors with open arms, this is not the ideal time to visit Jasper.”
A full message from the municipality can be found at jasper-alberta.com/p/chetamon-wildfire.