Crowsnest Pass

The Crowsnest Pass is geographically located in the southwest corner of Alberta situated within the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The Municipality of the Crowsnest Pass was incorporated effective January 1, 1979 as a single municipality with the consensual amalgamation of the towns of Coleman and Blairmore, the villages of Bellvue and Frank, Improvement District #5 with 13 hamlets (the largest being Hillcrest Mines), and a portion of Improvement District #6.

The Crowsnest Pass, rich in coal was a prosperous mining district in the early 1900s, but also the location of terrible natural and mining disasters. On April 29, 1903 approximately 90 million tons of limestone broke free from Turtle Mountain and covered the southern part of the town Frank, the mine, and the railroad below, killing approximately 70 people in its wake. To this day the remnants of Frank Slide lie at the base of Turtle Mountain. On December 9, 1910 the residents of Bellevue were shaken by the Bellevue Mine Explosion, which killed 30 men. Years later, on June 19, 1914, the town of Hillcrest experienced similar devastation when 189 men lost their lives in the Hillcrest Mine Explosion. Although all of the local underground mines on the Alberta side of the Crowsnest Pass have since closed, pit coal mines in the neighbouring province of British Columbia are still operational, and continue to be a significant source of employment for Crowsnest Pass residents.

During the prohibition of 1916 - 1923, Crowsnest Pass was a center for the illegal transport of liquor from the neighbouring province of British Columbia into Alberta. Today, this legacy is marked every July with Rum-Runner Days featuring parades, sporting events, and the spectacular Thunder in the Valley fireworks display.

Flooding has also occurred periodically in the Crowsnest Pass. The most serious spring floods occurred in 1923 and 1942, when heavy rainfall overpowered the surrounding rivers and creeks immersing the towns in several feet of water. Throughout its history the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass has also been susceptible to wildfires. Most recently the municipality experienced the Cherry Hill Fire in 2000 and the Lost Creek Fire in the summer of 2003. In the Lost Creek Fire over 21,000 hectares were burned and over 2,000 people evacuated from their homes, but luckily no lives were lost or homes destroyed. The most recent disaster in the Crowsnest Pass occurred in the winter of 2005, when an ice storm knocked out power to local residents for five days.

This community'­s experience with a significant wildfire in the last 10 years and the resulting evacuations, property damages and losses made it an excellent candidate for resiliency research. Working with the Municipality of the Crowsnest Pass provides the opportunity to examine the ability of local governments to create secure, thriving settlements after a disaster, and the effect of such efforts on resiliency. 

This project was funded by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR).


For more information about Crowsnest Pass

Municipality of Crowsnest Pass
Map of the Crowsnest Pass

Research dissemination

‘Lessons learned’ booklet:

  1.  Kulig, J.C., A. Gullacher, B. Reimer, I. Townshend, D.S. Edge, N. Lightfoot, K. Neves-Graca, M. McKay, D. Hutton, M. Barnett, J. Clague & A. Coghlan. (2008). Lost Creek Fire: Lessons Learned. Retrieved from 

Technical report:

  1. Kulig, J., W. Reimer, I. Townshend, D. Edge, K. Neves-Graca, N. Lightfoot, M. Barnett, J. Claque, A. Coghlan, M. McKay & R. St. John. (2007). Understanding Resiliency and Risk: A Final Report of the Lost Creek Fire Pilot Study. Lethbridge, AB: University of Lethbridge.


  1. McTighe, C., J. Kulig, W., Reimer, I. Townshend, D. Edge, K. Neves-Graca, N. Lightfoot, M. Barnett, J. Claque, M. McKay & D. Hutton. (2008). From Surviving to Thriving—the Resiliency of Rural Communities in the Face of Adversity. Rural Routes 8(33), 20-21.

Academic publications: 

  1. Reimer, W., J. Kulig, D. Edge, N. Lightfoot, & I. Townshend. (In press). The Lost Creek Fire: An Example of Community Governance under Disaster Conditions. Disasters
  2. Kulig, J., D. Edge, W., Reimer, I. Townsend & N. Lightfoot. (2009). Levels of risk: Perspectives from the Lost Creek Fire. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 24(2), 33-39.

Academic presentations:

  1.  March 21, 2011. Lethbridge, AB. Rural Health: Expanding our Horizons through a Community-Based Research Program. University Scholar Presentation, University of Lethbridge.
  2. November 3, 2010. Lethbridge, AB. Disasters, Resilience and Rural Communities: Lessons Learned. As part of the “Post-Disaster Response: Research into Community Resiliency after Wildfires.” CIHR Café Scientifique.
  3. May 25, 2010. Virtual panel presentation. Community Resiliency: Applying the Concept to Rural Communities. Diversity in Action: Resilient Rural Communities. Rural Women New Zealand, National Conference 2010.
  4. September 30-October 3, 2008. Jasper, AB. Lessons Learned: The Lost Creek Fire. 12th Annual General Meeting of Partners In Protection. 
  5.  June 6, 2008. Virtual presentation. Community Resiliency in Rural Communities: Lessons Learned from the Ground Level. Rural Health Symposium 2008 Wellington, New Zealand
  6. March 7-10, 2007. Albury, Australia. The Impacts of the Lost Creek Fire on Community Resiliency. 9th National Rural Health Alliance Conference. 
  7. March 4-6, 2007. Albury, Australia. Building Resiliency in Rural Communities: The Role of Rural Nurses. 5th International Rural Nursing Congress.


  1.  Study looks at Pass residents’ ability to rise from the ashes. The Lethbridge Herald. July 16, 2007.
  2. Canadian rural communities that never say die. My Country, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. April 27, 2007.
  3. Community Resiliency Research: Personal Perspectives. Perspectives, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio National. April 10, 2007.
  4. Small towns, large hearts. The Border Mail, Albury Australia. March 7, 2007.
  5. Community Resiliency. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Hobart, Tasmania site. March 7, 2007.
  6. Global Warming; Issues of Resiliency. My Country, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. March 7, 2007.
  7. Resilience in Rural Communities. Life Matters, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. March 6, 2007.
  8. Resiliency of the Crowsnest Pass. Pass Promoter. February 16, 2007.
  9. Lost Creek Fire Complete. Crowsnest Pass Herald. February 6, 2007.
  10. The after effects of the Lost Creek Fire. Pass Herald. September 12, 2006.
  11.  Researching fire effects. Pass Promoter. September 8, 2006.

Public presentations:

  1. March 8, 2010 - Biose, United States. Presentation of study results to academics and general public at the Boise State University, United States.
  2.  April 11, 2008 - Edmonton, AB. Presentation of study results to the Ministry of Health, the Alberta Government.
  3. Februray 15, 2008 - Toronto, ON. Presentation of study results to the Institute of Cathastrophic Loss Reduction.
  4. Februray 12, 2007 - Crowsnest Pass, AB. Presentation of study results to the town council and community members.