While crews work to bring electricity and gas services back online in Fort McMurray, air quality in the area is off the charts – and officials said that could hamper work to eventually bring evacuated residents back.

In a news conference held Monday, Premier Rachel Notley said the province’s Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) for parts of northern Alberta, including Fort McMurray, was extreme – although air quality is measured on a scale of 1 to 10, the rating in Fort McMurray had been determined to be 38 as of 10 a.m. Monday.

As a result, AHS has recommended members of the public who had applied to go back, should not return until conditions improve – and that workers in the area had been advised of the problem, while re-entry of additional personnel had been delayed, as had ongoing vehicle retrieval efforts.

The premier said the air quality could delay work that would lead officials to bring evacuated residents back.

One major factor in returning evacuees to Fort McMurray is having the hospital operational – the province said about 400 staff are on site working to clean up the hospital.

Meanwhile, a temporary medical facility has been set up in Fort McMurray for first responders to use.

Officials updated the status of two of the three wildfires, the wildfire burning in the Fort McMurray area was about 285,000 hectares, and the blaze had come within 10 to 12 kilometres of the Saskatchewan border.

Meanwhile, in northwestern Alberta, the fire in Greenview County was about 800 hectares in size.

However, crews were dealing with hot weather and low humidity, which were expected to allow the fires to grow.

“Fire conditions are really as bad now as they were on the first day of the fire, and we expect a lot of fire activity today,” Rachel Notley said.

Notley said she hoped the “Alberta tradition” of a cold and wet May long weekend would help crews get an upper hand on the fire.