Fire remains at 580,000 hectares, evacuees begin re-entry
The Province said in a press conference Tuesday that Fort McMurray is safe for re-entry, beginning Wednesday.
Nearly two weeks ago, Premier Rachel Notley said the following conditions must be in place before residents could begin to return:
- The wildfire is no longer an imminent threat to the community.
- Critical infrastructure is repaired to provide basic service.
- Essential services (such as fire, EMS, police and health care) are restored to a basic level.
- Hazardous areas are secure.
- Local government is re-established.
On Tuesday the Premier released a statement, saying those requirements had been met.
Voluntary phased re-entry will begin Wednesday as planned, with the exception of about 500 homes in the neighbourhoods of Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways. It is expected that 40-50% of the population will return that week.
In a statement, Notley reiterated that Fort McMurray is “not the city that residents left behind a month ago.” Some health-care services are unavailable and a boil-water advisory remains in effect.
Returning residents may also see some smoke in the area, along with helicopters, water bombers and firefighters still battling the fire.
The Premier also addressed how residents should prepare for re-entry.
“I ask you to not go home without a plan. Bring food, water and any other supplies needed for the next two weeks. Take your time and travel safely.”
Those returning are encouraged to fill up on gas before they head out and in Wandering River, as there is a limited supply in Fort McMurray.
The return back home will be a difficult time for many. Notley urged residents to look after their mental well-being and noted that there is support available through information centres.
As well, residents are being asked to stick to the re-entry schedule. Scott long of Alberta Emergency Management Agency warned “if you go home before your zone entry date, the services you need [such as gas] may not be available to you.”
The Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray) RCMP detachment is fully operational and full police services will be provided to residents.
“The RCMP’s main priority in assisting with the staged re-entry of Fort McMurray residents is to ensure that everyone gets home safely,” said Superintendent and Officer-in-Charge of the Wood Buffalo RCMP Rob McCloy. “We also want to make sure that returning residents have the information they need as soon as they return home.”
Conditions will continue to be monitored and accessed daily. If the situation changes, the re-entry schedule may be adjusted.
The two main information centres are located at the Fort McMurray Composite High School (9803 King Street, Fort McMurray) and the Westwood YMCA (221 Tundra Drive, Fort McMurray). The other information centres are:
- Vista Ridge-Spruce Valley, Saprae Creek
- Holy Trinity High School-230 Powder Drive, Fort McMurray
- Eagle Ridge Community Centre-301 Sparrow Hawk Drive, Fort McMurray
- Anzac Community Hall-105B-4 Christina Drive, Anzac
- Oil Sands Discovery Centre-515 MacKenzie Boulevard, Fort McMurray
If residents were forced to abandon their vehicles on Hwy. 881 and on Hwy. 63 north of the Hwy. 63/881 junction, they may have been towed to a secure yard within Fort McMurray. Recovery of vehicles from this storage yard is currently suspended.