May 22, 2016 6:33 pm
Updated: May 22, 2016 7:34 pm

Fort McMurray wildfire now covers more than 522K hectares

Burnt out trees are shown in Fort McMurray, Alta., in a May 13, 2016, file photo.

Jason Franson, The Canadian Press

Fire conditions in northeastern Alberta remained extreme Sunday as the Fort McMurray wildfire jumped in size overnight.

As of 3 p.m. Sunday, the Fort McMurray wildfire was estimated to cover 522,892 hectares, including 741 hectares in Saskatchewan. That’s up from the 504,443 hectares it covered Saturday afternoon.

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The fire remained out-of-control Sunday and Fort McMurray is still restricted to authorized personnel only. Workers returning to Alberta oilsands sites are permitted to head north on Highway 63, which passes through Fort McMurray, but have been told there is no access to the city at this point.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: evacuation order lifted for some work camps north of the community

The Regional Emergency Operations Centre has endorsed Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s recommendation to allow a phased re-entry to several camps south of Anzac, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said Sunday.

Assessment work to return the following camps to normal operations may begin immediately:

  • Nexen Long Lake
  • HML Lodge
  • Gregoire River
  • Nexen Kinosis
  • PTI Kinosis
  • PTI Anzac
  • Surmont
  • Cheecham Lodge

Guest occupancy is not permitted in these camps until AAF and Alberta Health Services ensure the facilities are safe for occupants.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: Oilsands work camp destroyed as flames threaten other sites

Work continues in the community to prepare for the return of residents. As of Sunday afternoon, gas had been restored to about 90 per cent of undamaged structures. Electricity had been restored to more than 90 per cent of undamaged buildings.

Voluntary, phased re-entry into Fort McMurray is tentatively scheduled to begin on June 1, provided several conditions are met. The five conditions identified by the Alberta government are as follows:

  • The wildfire is no longer an imminent threat to the community
  • Critical infrastructure is restored to a basic level
  • Essential services are restored to a basic level
  • Hazardous areas are secured
  • Local government is re-established

The dates and communities scheduled for re-entry are as follows:

  • Zone 1: Lower Townsite, Anzac, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation, Gregoire Lake Estates (June 1)
  • Zone 2: Parsons Creek, Stone Creek, Timberlea, Eagle Ridge, Dickinsfield (June 2)
  • Zone 3: Thickwood, Wood Buffalo (June 3)
  • Zone 4(a): Gregoire, Prairie Creek, Saprae Creek Estates (June 3)
  • Zone 4(b): Waterways, Abasand, Beacon Hill, Grayling Terrace, Draper (June 4)

Cooler temperatures and rain are in the forecast for the region this week, which is good news for those fighting the fire.

Watch below: Boreal forests are designed to burn, which makes fighting fires a challenge

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation, Fort McKay First Nation and some camps north of Fort McMurray.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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