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Gas, electricity restored to 90 per cent of Fort McMurray, wildfire remains out of control
Fort McMurray welcome sign in wake of devastating wildfire.
Debra Clark, CTV Edmonton
Published Sunday, May 22, 2016 5:55PM MDT
Last Updated Monday, May 23, 2016 4:38PM MDT
With crews working around the clock to restore power and natural gas to the fire-ravaged city of Fort McMurray, the province announced Sunday afternoon ATCO employees had restored critical utilities to about 90 per cent of undamaged structures in the community.
However, officials urged residents to check the ATCO Utility Restoration Map online for more specific information.
The blaze, still considered out of control, was last estimated to cover over 522,000 hectares, including more than 2,400 hectares in Saskatchewan.
Despite cooler weather and some rain in the area, fire conditions remain extreme in northeastern Alberta.
According to the province, a fire located about eight kilometres west of Janvier was estimated to be about 146 hectares in size as of Monday evening. The blaze, roughly 120 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, is currently being held and no evacuation orders exist at this time.
On Saturday, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo announced a timeline for Fort McMurray and area evacuees to return to their neighbourhoods.
The voluntary, phased re-entry covering four zones is tentatively scheduled to take place as follows:
- Zone 1: Lower Townsite, Anzac, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation, Gregoire Lake Estates (June 1)
- Zone 2: Parsons Creek, Stone Creek, Timberlea, Eagle Ridge, Dickinsfield (June 2)
- Zone 3: Thickwood, Wood Buffalo (June 3)
- Zone 4(a): Gregoire, Prairie Creek, Saprae Creek Estates (June 3)
- Zone 4(b): Waterways, Abasand, Beacon Hill, Grayling Terrace, Draper (June 4)
Returning residents may encounter service disruptions and a boil water advisory will remain in effect indefinitely. Officials recommended residents return with enough basic necessities (food, water, prescriptions) to last for a week.
More information about re-entry as well as a timeline map can be found online.
Damage assessments completed following two separate explosions
On Tuesday, Premier Rachel Notley confirmed two explosions had damaged about ten homes in separate areas of Fort McMurray. Now, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has indicated damage assessments for the "Silin Forest Road fires and the Dickinsfield explosion" had been completed.
Officials said RCMP have been unable to reach the occupants of the "impacted residences" and are asking people who might be affected to confirm the status of their home online.
Both incidents remain under investigation.
Oilsands camps update
On Monday afternoon, the province confirmed the phased re-entry for all oil sands camps in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo was underway.
The municipality issued a news release late Sunday afternoon that said a phased re-entry to the following areas, south of Anzac, had been approved:
- Nexen Long Lake
- HML Lodge
- Gregoire River
- Nexen Kinosis
- PTI Kinosis
- PTI Anzac
- Cheecham Lodge
According to officials, assessment work to return these camps to operations “may begin immediately.” Guest occupancy is not permitted until inspections have been completed to ensure safe conditions for workers.
Meanwhile, late Friday night, the municipality announced a mandatory evacuation order had been lifted for the following oilsands areas:
- Millennium Lodge
- Borealis Lodge
- Hudson Lodge
- Noralta Lodge
- Ruth Lake Lodge
- Suncor Base Plant (including ATT)
- Syncrude Mildred Lake Plant
Northbound traffic on Highway 63 remains restricted to essential services only – however, the province announced Sunday, workers who have been asked to return to oilsands sites north of the community are now permitted to use this road.
There remains no public access to Fort McMurray.
About 8,000 oilsands workers in camps north of Fort McMurray were evacuated after gusting winds and high temperatures caused the fire to move rapidly toward them earlier this week.
A mandatory evacuation order for Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation, Fort McKay First Nation and some camps north of Fort McMurray remains in effect.
Wildfire relief funding
Locations for Fort McMurray evacuees to pick up pre-loaded debit cards with emergency funds are now closed – but starting after the long weekend on Tuesday, May 24, cards are available for pickup at Alberta Works locations (between 8: 15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., unless otherwise specified).
- Edmonton – Edmonton City Centre (10242 105 Street)
- Edmonton – Edmonton North, 2050 Northgate Centre (9499 137 Avenue)
- Edmonton – Edmonton south, Argyll Centre (6325 Gateway Boulevard NW)
- Edmonton – Edmonton West, 120 Meadowlark Shopping Centre (15710 87 Avenue)
- Calgary – Calgary Central, 3 Floor RPW Building (1021 10 Avenue SW)
- Calgary – Calgary East, Main Floor Radisson Centre (525 28 Street SE)
- Calgary – Calgary North, One Executive Place (1816 Crowchild Trail NW)
- Calgary – Calgary South, 100 Fisher Park II (6712 Fisher Street SE)
- Red Deer – 2nd Floor First Red Deer Place (4911 51 Street) (Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)
- Lac La Biche – Provincial Building (9503 Beaverhill Road)
- Grande Prairie – 100 Towne Centre Mall (9845 99 Avenue) (Hours: 8:15 a.m. – noon, then 1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.)
- Medicine Hat – Lower Level Room, Provincial Building (5, 346 3 Street Southeast)
- Lethbridge – Main Floor, Provincial Building (200-5 Avenue South)
People with immediate needs can call the 24-hour Emergency Income Support Contact Centre at 1-866-644-9992.