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Wildfire near Fort McMurray more than triples overnight, several evacuation alerts remain in place

Smoke can be seen from a wildfire burning near Fort McMurray on May 12, 2024. (Photo: Alberta Wildfire) Smoke can be seen from a wildfire burning near Fort McMurray on May 12, 2024. (Photo: Alberta Wildfire)

The fire burning near Fort McMurray grew from 25 hectares to 5,500 hectares over the weekend.

The out-of-control wildfire burning 16 kilometres southwest of the northern Alberta city grew substantially between Friday and Sunday afternoon, driven by strong winds in the region.

"It was pushing away from Fort McMurray due to the wind conditions. However, they changed a little bit and the fire will now be moving in a northwestern direction towards the Athabasca River," said Melissa Story, Alberta Wildlife information officer. 

Night vision helicopters worked overnight and dropped water on the southeastern edge of the fire. While fire activity was subdued overnight, warm temperatures were expected to drive higher activity Sunday afternoon.

Evacuation alerts remained in place Sunday for Fort McMurray, Saprae Creek Estates, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation 468, Anzac and Rickards Landing Industrial Park.

Residents should be prepared to evacuate on short notice, keeping medication, important documents and emergency kits ready. Updates can be found on the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo website or the Alberta Emergency Alert website

The fire is burning 12 kilometres west of Highway 63, and officials warned residents that visibility or highway access could be affected. Access to Fort McMurray on Highway 881 was not expected to be affected or closed.

Sunday, six crews of wildland firefighters, and 13 helicopters and airtankers worked on the fire.

Heavy equipment worked on a fire guard on the northeast edge of the fire, and structure protection was being established in Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray 468 First Nation as a precaution.

An Incident Management Team has arrived in Fort McMurray to manage the fire.

"They are monitoring the conditions and they're preparing daily reports and daily activities for wildland firefighters," Story said. "We are doing everything we can to build a barrier between that wildfire and any communities." 

The fire prompted Fort McMurray's mayor to reassure citizens on social media Sunday, saying the municipality is well prepared to handle whatever comes its way.

Out of 43 active wildfires as of 1:30 p.m. Sunday, the fire near Fort McMurray was one of two burning out of control. The other was in the Grande Prairie Forest Area near the Hamlet of Teepee Creek. Top Stories

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