Winds in northern Alberta are finally blowing the fires in and around Fort McMurray away from the city.
The fire grew from around 10,000 hectares on Wednesday to 85,000 on Thursday, and another 4,000-plus people were evacuated by air from oil and gas camps north of the city. By the end of tonight, Premier Rachel Notley says 8,000 people in oil and camps north of the city should be evacuated down south by air.
Executive Director of Provincial Operations for the Alberta Emergency Management Agency Scott Long hopes to more by ground Friday.
“So out in front of ground convoys when they start, there will be a [Department of National Defense] helicopter that will be out in front to spot to make sure that there is no issues. RCMP escort in front and back and they will be done in a packet, controlled manner, so groups of vehicles being escorted.”
It was deemed too dangerous to try and take Highway 63 on Thursday. Once it’s opened, fuel will also be brought up.
Although officials aren’t certain when residents of Fort McMurray will be able to return to their homes, they are certain it won’t be a mere matter of days.
According to the Premier, the damage to the community is extensive and not safe for residents.
“Firefighters continue to battle a very dangerous wildfire. Once that immediate threat is passed, we will need to spend as much time as it takes to assess the infrastructure that is vital to support a community safely.”
Some people will be allowed to visit their homes to get valuables and assess damage, but only when it’s safe to do so.
The wildfire has claimed at least 1600 structures.