Fort McMurray evacuation order lifted after subdued wildfire behaviour

Click to play video: 'Tour of evacuated Fort McMurray neighbourhoods'
Tour of evacuated Fort McMurray neighbourhoods
WATCH: Two days after residents of four Fort McMurray neighbourhoods were evacuated, journalists had an opportunity to tour those areas and see the wildfire suppression efforts firsthand. Jasmine King reports live from the northern Alberta city. – May 16, 2024

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has lifted the evacuation order for the residents of several communities in Fort McMurray, Alta., who were forced to leave their homes earlier this week due to the threat of wildfire.

The RMWB also lifted the state of local emergency as of 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

About 6,600 residents of Abasand, Beacon Hill, Grayling Terrace and Prairie Creek were forced to flee their homes on Tuesday afternoon due to the out-of-control wildfire, which measured 19,582 hectares as of Saturday.

To date, 327 wildfires have been recorded in the Forest Protection Area. Of those, one is classified as out-of-control, two are classified as being held, 17 are under control, three have been turned over and 304 are extinguished.

Around 28,835 hectares have been burned since Jan. 1, wildfire officials said.

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Officials said Saturday recent rain has reduced the intensity of the wildfire, and significant progress has been made on containing the northern edge.

Construction of fire guards has been completed between the northern edge of the fire and Fort McMurray, helping prevent the wildfire from moving closer to the community, landfill and Highway 63.

“You can now return home,” said Sandy Bowman, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, in an update Saturday.

“We will be very pleased to see you.”

Officials said good progress has been made on containing the northern edge of the wildfire, which is still listed as out of control.

“Residents will have to live with an active wildfire near their community for weeks, if not months,” said Alberta Wildfire information officer Josee St-Onge during a Saturday morning update streamed on social media.

“Bringing a wildfire of this size under control will take time and hard work.”

St-Onge said the closest point of the fire remains about 5.5 km from the Fort McMurray landfill and 4.5 km from the intersection of Highway 63 and 881.

The fire did not grow on Friday, she said, and overnight rainfall is expected to help subdue fire activity.

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“We’re very confident that we’ve put enough work on the northern flank of this wildfire that it will not progress towards to community if and when the fire becomes more active,” St-Onge said.

Todd Loewen, Alberta’s minister of forestry and parks, said residents still need to be cautious as they return to their homes.

“The Alberta government is willing to put the resources necessary to make sure that we take this fire and take it to the further states of being held and under control,” he said.

“But because of the hard work that’s been done … we can safely have the people of Fort McMurray come back to their homes.”

Schools in Fort McMurray will reopen Tuesday, according to a joint statement from the city’s three school boards.

Officials are reminding residents to avoid travelling into wooded areas near the wildfire or flying drones in the area as crews are still actively working to contain the fire.

A fire ban remains in effect for Fort McMurray’s urban service area and Forest Protection Area, restricting outside fires of any type, open-air fires, recreational fires like backyard fire pits, fireworks and charcoal barbeques.

Propane appliances, such as barbecues and gas heaters, are still permitted.

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Emergency social services, including food and accommodations, closed on Saturday.

Highway 63 and Highway 881 are open, officials said, and traffic is flowing in both directions.

More than 1,800 evacuees registered at the Clearview Community Recreation Centre in Edmonton throughout the week.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said Edmonton has always been ready and willing to step up and help other communities when needed.

He said wildfires are other climate-related hazards are becoming more common and severe, and the city needs to be prepared.

“Fortunately, the wildfire situation is under control,” Sohi said.

“The weather’s getting better; we had more moisture, which is good, but we will always be ready.”

Alberta Wildfire information

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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