Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

Alberta Wildfire Updates: Progress and Challenges in Fort McMurray

By Fatih Sahin May19,2024

Significant strides have been made in the battle against the MWF-017 wildfire, which remains classified as out of control but has seen considerable progress thanks to recent weather conditions and coordinated firefighting efforts. The wildfire, spanning 19,493 hectares, is situated approximately 5.5 km from the Fort McMurray landfill and 4.5 km from the intersection of highways 63 and 881. Despite its vast size, the fire’s activity has diminished due to rainfall and diligent containment measures.

The past few days have been pivotal in managing the wildfire, with over 40 mm of rain since May 16, including an additional 5 mm overnight. It has played a crucial role in minimizing fire activity. Helicopter operations, integral in aerial firefighting efforts, are likely to be grounded due to the current weather conditions, which have shifted the focus to ground-based strategies. Firefighters, now able to access the fire line via ground transport, are concentrating on extinguishing hot spots.

Heavy equipment operators have been working tirelessly, particularly on constructing a containment line along the north and east sides of the wildfire. This effort, combined with the deployment of 233 firefighters, 24 helicopters, and 40 pieces of heavy equipment, underscores the extensive resources committed to controlling the fire.

Yesterday, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo announced the lifting of evacuation orders for the neighborhoods of Abasand, Beacon Hill, Prairie Creek, and Grayling Terrace.

“We are so pleased to be able to welcome people home and have them return home, safely,” said Mayor Sandy Bowman. “We thank everyone that was evacuated this week for their patience, resolve, and strength, and we look forward to seeing all of you. While there is more work to be done, I want to express my deepest appreciation to all those that played such a critical role in protecting our community, keeping people safe, and supporting evacuees, while being there for each other.”

As residents return, several measures are in place to ensure their safety. Emergency social services, including food and accommodation, remain available until noon on May 19. The RCMP is present at neighborhood entrances and patrolling areas to assist with a smooth transition back home.

Despite the progress, the wildfire is not yet under full control. The fire will remain active for several weeks, requiring ongoing management and vigilance. The Incident Management Team reassures residents that, given the current resources and containment strategies, the wildfire does not pose an immediate threat to the community. However, residents are urged to stay informed and prepared during wildfire season.

To mitigate further risks, a Fire Ban and OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) Restriction remain in effect in the Urban Service Area and the Forest Protection Area of Fort McMurray. The ban includes all types of open-air fires, recreational fires in portable or fixed fire pits, fireworks, and charcoal barbecues. However, propane appliances, such as gas barbecues and heaters, are still permitted.

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