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Parks Canada accepts recommendations from review into out-of-control fire near Banff

An independent review into a prescribed fire in May that led to evacuations in the Banff townsite has made a series of recommendations to try to prevent it from happening again. A sign warns of a forest fire in the area, Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

BANFF, Alta. — An independent review into a prescribed fire that led to evacuations near a popular tourist town in Banff National Park has made a series of recommendations to try to prevent it from happening again.

The review, which was released by Parks Canada this week, was ordered by the federal agency after the May 2023 fire northeastof Banff, Alta., went out of control when there was a shift in wind direction and speed.

The fire didn't pose an immediate threat to the town, but it required several areas outside the townsite to be evacuated as a precaution and it caused damage to several sheds, the wildlife fencing along the Trans-Canada Highway and a Banff informationsign.

The review by Satya Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on emergency service organizations, says there weren't enough operational briefings for fire crews, some of the equipment had mechanical issues and there was a lack of information for the public.

Some of its recommendations include improving evacuation plans, using fire weather specialists to get more accurate information before a prescribed fire and better communicating the plans to the public.

Parks Canada said in a statement that it accepts the review's recommendations and will take any steps required to improve its processes for future fires.

"Prescribed fires are complex operations that can require several years of preparation and take place only under specific predetermined conditions," said the statement.

"While every effort is made to prevent prescribed fires from escaping, there is always risk."

Parks Canada said contingency resources and plans were in place for the prescribed fire that included an outline of the goals for the fire, a review of the local weather and environmental conditions, and the resources needed to do the work.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2023.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This story has been corrected. An earlier version said the fire was in the Banff townsite, but it was outside the town's boundaries.

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