As provincial officials put out the call for help battling a massive wildfire in Fort McMurray, Edmonton Fire Rescue is sending crews of their own to help meet that need.

Edmonton Fire Chief Ken Block said more than a dozen firefighters and a number of pieces of equipment, including an ETS bus, would head to the Fort McMurray area Tuesday night.

“Initial deployment is going to be 18 staff, four major pieces of apparatus, two pumper units and two tanker units,” Block said. “We’ll also be sending an Edmonton Transit bus with support that will be required in the form of air bottles, food, gear, as well as two mechanics from fleet services to support the units that are up there.

“That will be the first deployment; we’ll play it by ear after that.”

Block said the reserve teams being sent to northern Alberta had been asked to prepare to be in the field for up to three days.

While a number of crew members were headed north, Block said service for Edmontonians would remain the same.

“The challenge with Edmonton fire rescue is we’re here to support our citizens, we want to make it clear your normal fire response is ensured, stations are staffed,” Block said, saying the situation would be assessed on a 24 hour basis – and if more crews are needed: “We’ll see what we can do.”

In previous disasters, such as the fire in Slave Lake in 2011, and the floods in Calgary in 2013, Block said crews had spent a couple of weeks each time in both locations.

Meanwhile, the Edmonton Operations Centre had been activated at level two, which Block said meant it had a skeleton crew on hand, along with representatives EMS, police, and Alberta Health Services.

Block said he had reached out to the Fort McMurray Fire Chief to find out exactly what they needed.

Help for evacuees in Edmonton

Late Tuesday night, officials at Northlands said the Expo Centre had been confirmed as a reception centre for evacuees from Fort McMurray.

Northlands said a hall is being opened, and was being cleared at about 10 p.m. Tuesday to accept evacuees – the City is sending 100 beds, and Northlands is putting together a concession area for evacuees when they arrive. Officials said evacuees should enter through the front doors of the Expo Centre.

City officials said the doors at the temporary reception centre would open at 12:01 Wednesday morning at Northlands Hall A.

The organization had been asked earlier in the day to prepare to potentially accept evacuees – officials said staff started preparing the facility right away, and anyone who left Fort McMurray in an RV could park on their lot. The facility also has showers, and a kitchen and food available.

Meanwhile, Edmonton Catholic Schools has made the gymnasiums at 90 of their schools available for evacuees if needed – a message sent to district staff said officials were working with the Provincial Operations Centre to find out if evacuees will need a place to stay, and providing any support to Fort McMurray schools.