11 new wildfire starts across Alberta, evacuation alerts expanded near Fort McMurray

Residents of Fort McMurray and the nearby community of Saprae Creek remain on an evacuation alert as an out-of-control wildfire burns south of the city, but municipal officials say in their latest update that winds on Saturday appear to be pushing the flames further south. A massive swathe of burned forest is seen as a wildfire designated MWF017 by the Alberta Wildfire Service, top right, continues to burn near Ft. McMurray, Alta., in a Saturday, May 11, 2024, handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Alberta Wildfire Service, *MANDATORY CREDIT*. GAC

Evacuation alerts have been expanded to include several new communities Saturday as firefighters battle strong winds in their effort to douse the flames.

In the Fort McMurray, Alta., region, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) expanded its alert as of 3 p.m. Saturday to include: Fort McMurray, Saprae Creek, Anzac, Fort McMurray First Nation #468, Gregoire Lake Estates and Rickards Landing Industrial Park.

The RMWB said the expanded notice is due to the “risk of wildfire” and means residents must be on alert to leave at a moment’s notice.

In an update posted to its website, the RMWN said it also “anticipated that Highway 63 will be impacted later today which would result in a temporary closure. This closure would be south of the highway 63 and 881 junction.”

“At this time, it is not believed that Highway 881 will be immediately impacted. Access to Fort McMurray will not be impeded as highway 881 is not expected to be impacted or closed at this time,” the statement continued.

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Alberta Wildfire said the wildfire near Fort McMurray remains out of control and had grown to over 1,400 hectares.

Alberta Wildfire said as of  Saturday morning, the fire was 16 km southwest of Fort McMurray on the south side of the Athabasca River valley.

“We saw some extreme wildfire behaviour on it yesterday. It grew pretty significantly under the windy conditions yesterday,” said Melissa Story, provincial information officer with Alberta Wildfire.

“Our crews are working with air tankers and helicopters in that area to try to get it under control,” Story continued. “We also had night operations on it last night, which proved to be quite successful so we’ve made some good progress on it.”

Five crews of wildland firefighters, nine helicopters and air tankers are expected to be working on the fire on Saturday.

“It’s still quite windy today, but we’re seeing less smoke so we’re able to fly aircraft in the Fort McMurray area,” Story said.

The wildfire near Fort McMurray is one of two out-of-control fires in the province. The second is near Grande Prairie.

“We’ve had 11 new wildfire starts overnight across the province due to the conditions, these are the only two that remain out of control,” Story said, adding there were 47 wildfires burning across the province on Saturday, with eight being held and the remainder under control.

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“We’re focusing our efforts on where we’re seeing that extreme fire behaviour,” Story added. “We’re fighting these wildfires as best we can.”

Residents affected by the  evacuation alert  should be ready to evacuate on short notice.

For the latest information on which areas in Alberta are under an evacuation alert or order due to a wildfire, visit the Alberta Emergency Alert website.

For the latest information on the wildfire status and danger across the province, visit the Alberta Wildfire website.

The latest information on fire advisories, restrictions and bans across the province can be found on the Alberta fire bans website.

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Alberta wildfire danger set to spike: Officials

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