The provincial government said Wednesday that, if conditions don’t change, and certain criteria are met, evacuated residents of Fort McMurray could be allowed to return to the city starting on June 1.

Premier Rachel Notley said Wednesday afternoon that a phased, voluntary re-entry of residents could start on June 1, a process that would be completed by June 15 – coinciding with restoration of the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.

However, the plan is conditional, the province said no one will be allowed to return until five conditions are met:

  • That the wildfire is no longer an imminent threat
  • Critical infrastructure is repaired and restored to a basic service level
  • Essential services are restored, including emergency services, transportation to and within the community including traffic controls, access to emergency medical care, potable water, electricity and gas, access to food, pharmaceuticals, and banks, access to mental health supports
  • Hazardous areas are secure
  • Local government is re-established

The re-entry will also be phased, with a set schedule covering four zones in Fort McMurray and the surrounding area:

  • Zone 1 – Lower Townsite and Anzac
  • Zone 2 (a) – Parsons Creek, Stone Creek, Timberlea north of Confederation
  • Zone 2 (b) – Eagle Ridge, Timberlea south of Confederation, Dickensfield
  • Zone 3 – Thickwood, Wood Buffalo
  • Zone 4 (a) – Gregoire, Saprae Creek Estates
  • Zone 4 (b) – Waterways, Abasand, Beacon Hill

The province said schools won’t formally conduct classes until September.

Officials also advised residents with certain medical conditions or situations to not return until the Health Centre is operational:

  • Those with chronic or acute medical conditions such as asthma
  • Anyone requiring regular primary care, specialist care, laboratory or diagnostic services
  • Anyone in need of mental health services
  • Women more than 36 weeks pregnant or with a high-risk pregnancy
  • Anyone receiving cancer treatment, dialysis or other specialized medical services
  • Anyone requiring home care, oxygen or health support at home
  • Anyone recently discharged from hospital, or who has had a transplant

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo released a Fire Assessment Tool online, giving residents a closer look at potential damage to their properties with high-resolution aerial photos.

Officials said Wednesday that the wildfire near Fort McMurray, continued to grow – and was burning even closer to the Saskatchewan border.

In their most recent update, posted online at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, officials with Alberta Wildfire said the fire had grown to more than 422,898 hectares.

Officials expected Wednesday to be another difficult day for crews fighting the fire, temperatures expected to reach the mid-20s, with similar conditions to Tuesday.

In recent days, the massive wildfire spread north, threatening a number of oilsands camps in the area – on Monday night, the Blacksand Executive Lodge was destroyed in the fire.

About 8,000 workers were evacuated from more than a dozen oilsands camps Monday as the wildfire came closer.

On Wednesday, officials said crews continued to work to protect facilities north of Fort McMurray.

“Mostly our crews are working the flanks, building dozer guard, laying down retardant with aircraft and helicopters so it’s been a very intense, grueling day for our firefighters out there,” Travis Fairweather with Alberta Wildfire said Wednesday.

Officials with the Saskatchewan government said the fire is 5 kilometres from the border.

With files from Michel Boyer