Crews in northern Alberta still fighting massive wildfire near Fort McMurray
Firefighters throughout Alberta were headed to northern Alberta Monday to help crews in that area battling blazes near Fort McMurray.
Officials said Monday that there are at least two fires burning near Fort McMurray, one has been called the ‘north fire’ was announced as being held on Sunday at about 4 p.m. – it had stayed at that status into Monday morning.
The other, larger fire, is being called the ‘West Fire’, is believed to be between 500 and 750 hectares in size. Attempts to gauge the size of the fire were hampered Monday morning by heavy smoke hanging close to the ground.
However, it’s believed there was no significant change to the West Fire overnight.
“Certainly good news for us,” Fort McMurray Regional Fire Chief Darby Allen said Monday. “The fire didn’t really extend in size, it didn’t gain in ferocity, in fact it calmed down overnight.”
Later Monday, officials said crews had managed to hold the fire just over a kilometer west of Highway 63 and Airport Road, and the blaze had not crossed the Hangingstone River.
Officials with Alberta Forestry told CTV News that firefighters have been called in from Edson, Rocky Mountain House and Slave Lake to help battle the blaze.
In addition, heavy equipment is expected to be brought in, along with two air tanker groups and seven helicopters.
One of those tankers had been flying since 9 a.m. Monday, and it had focused on laying fire retardant between Highway 63 and the blaze.
In their update late Monday afternoon, officials said heavy equipment will continue working overnight, if conditions allow.
Later Monday afternoon, officials said the mandatory evacuation order for residents of Prairie Creek had been downgraded to a voluntary shelter-in-place order, along with the rest of the Gregoire area.
Meanwhile, those living in Centennial RV Park remained under a mandatory evacuation.
Some evacuated residents spent the night at MacDonald Island Park, a recreation centre in Fort McMurray.
“It is scary because you don’t know if you’ll go back to your house still being there, with how the forest fires are and everything,” Brent Pritchett, an evacuated Fort McMurray resident said Sunday. “I guess it’s just a waiting game to find out.”
Those staying in their homes are advised to shut their windows, and try to keep outside air outside – as the Air Quality Health Index for Fort McMurray is currently at 12, considered a very high health risk.