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Evacuation orders lifted in Fort McMurray Saturday as rain dampens wildfire activity

Wildfire smoke over Fort McMurray, Alta. on May 14, 2024. (Credit: James Cardinal Jr.) Wildfire smoke over Fort McMurray, Alta. on May 14, 2024. (Credit: James Cardinal Jr.)
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Residents of Fort of McMurray displaced by wildfire were told they could return home Saturday.

All evacuation orders and alerts were lifted in the Fort McMurray area, and the state of local emergency was lifted.

Around 6,600 Residents evacuated from Abasand, Beacon Hill, Prairie Creek, and Grayling Terrace were told they could return home.

Highway 63 and Highway 881 were both open Saturday. More information for returning evacuees can be found on the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) website

"Thank all of you for your patience, resolve and your strength during this evacuation," said Fort McMurray Mayor Sandy Bowman. "Welcome back. Please travel safely."

Bowman said emergency support services would remain in place for evacuees until noon on Sunday.

More than 1,800 were registered in Edmonton. Services at the Clareview emergency operations centre were scheduled to end Saturday night at 10 p.m.

On Friday, displaced residents had been told Tuesday would be the soonest they could return home.

According to Josée St-Onge of Alberta Wildfire, that timeline was moved up after rain in the region reduced the intensity of the wildfire.

"And there were winds that were pushing the fire towards the community," St-Onge added. "Luckily, we did have some favorable weather changes that we're able to confidently say that that threat is now gone."

Evacuation alerts were also lifted in Fort McMurray, Draper, Saprae Creek, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation 468, Anzac and Rickards Landing Industrial Park.

The fire remained classified as out of control at 19,493 hectares on Saturday. At its closest point, it burned 5.5 kilometres from the Fort McMurray landfill and 4.5 kilometres from the intersection of Highway 63 and 881.

St-Onge said Alberta Wildfire is confident the fire would not grow any closer to the city.

"We have put enough work on the northern flank of this wildfire that it will not progress towards the community if and when the fire becomes more active," she said.

Additional safety measures included the completion of fire guards, the installation of structure protection measures and the application of fire-retardant over almost five kilometres of land surrounding the four formerly-evacuated communities.

Alberta Wildfire said no resources would be diverted from the fire until it was brought under control. A fire ban and off-highway vehicle restriction remained in effect for the area.

"Please do not travel in the forest near the wildfire or fly drones in and around the areas, as crews are still actively working," Fire Chief Jody Butz said. "We need to give them room to work."

Given the size of the fire, officials estimated it could take weeks to bring it under control and residents were asked to remain vigilant and be ready for any future evacuation orders if needed.

"The fire is still going to remain there," Butz said. "The reality is we live in the middle of the Boreal Forest and this time of year we should always be prepared.

"Wildfire remains our number one risk, regardless of this fire or otherwise."

For the most up to date information on emergency alerts or order, visit the Alberta Emergency Alert website

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