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Calgary official warns Fort McMurray fire evacuees: ‘if you have a place to stay, stay there’

WATCH ABOVE: Calgary opened its doors to Fort McMurray evacuees, but now the city is running short of room. The evacuation centres are nearly at capacity, but as Kim Smith reports, some hotels are taking up the slack.

As Premier Rachel Notley and members of the media toured parts of Fort McMurray Monday afternoon, emergency officials in Calgary had a message for wildfire evacuees: if you have a place to stay, don’t move.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire – fire chief says 85% of community still intact

Live updates of Fort McMurray wildfire

“I would strongly encourage that if you’re an evacuee and you have a place to stay, stay there,” Chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) Tom Sampson said. “You will not find it better by moving from Edmonton to Calgary.”

“If you think you’re coming because we have rooms here, we are quickly running out of those rooms.”

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READ MORE: Where Fort McMurray fire evacuees can get help and information

Ptarmigan Court Trailer Park is shown during a media tour of the fire-damaged city of Fort McMurray, Alta. on Monday, May 9, 2016.
Ptarmigan Court Trailer Park is shown during a media tour of the fire-damaged city of Fort McMurray, Alta. on Monday, May 9, 2016. Jonathan Hayward, The Canadian Press

Sampson said about 2,089 evacuees are being housed in four reception centres in Calgary, and that Ambrose University College and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) were full. He said between the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University campuses there was room for about 200 more people, but once they’re full, the city will move to group lodging.

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“It’ll be a large gymnasium-type situation where there’s possibly 100 beds in one area,” he said. “That’s not an ideal situation.”

Fort McMurray evacuees who registered with the Canadian Red Cross must confirm their registration by 11:59 p.m. Monday in order for it to be validated.

Sampson said more donations are not needed at reception centres at this time, and directed those wishing to donate to the Red Cross at 1-800-418-1111.

City of Calgary Fire Chief Steve Dongworth said the first crew of firefighters sent to Fort McMurray was brought home Saturday night and replaced with a crew of 36. He said they were working to protect critical infrastructure and fighting structural fires.

“They’ve been very busy–close to 20 hours a day working,” Dongworth said.

READ MORE: ‘Our home is your home’ – Calgary Mayor Nenshi said to Fort McMurray evacuees

The chief added his crew is safe with no injuries, but that the smoke was hard on everyone.

“I could literally feel my voice was different because of the smoke,” he said, referring to his trip to Fort McMurray.

READ MORE: Edmontonians disobey fire ban; crews respond to 50 calls in 24 hours

While a province-wide fire ban is in effect, there was no fire ban in Calgary as of Monday afternoon. Dongworth said the situation was being monitored.

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Read more about how fire bans work in Calgary and Alberta on the city’s website here.

Click here for a full list of Fort McMurray wildfire coverage.

With files from Global’s Kim Smith