Extreme air quality conditions could spell delays for Fort McMurray evacuees getting back to their homes. The Air Quality Index is a scale that normally ranks air quality on a scale from 1 to 10, but Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Health Services Dr. Karen Grimsrud says the city and surrounding area currently sits at a rating of 38.
“Compared to last week, where the cooler weather really made a difference and the wind direction was different. The culmination, as I understand, of the warmer weather today as well as the wind conditions really switched things around and really resulted in the air quality.”
As a result, there is still no timeline currently for when evacuees will be able to return to Fort McMurray and area. Premier Rachel Notley says the current air quality conditions could likely impede some of the work needed to be done in order for people to return home.
“Those already working up in the area have been advised of the health issues. The re-entry of additional response personnel has been delayed, but it is clear that this is something that could potentially delay recovery work and a return to the community.”
However, Notley says response personnel had been making faster than anticipated progress on re-entry work. So a timeline could be given to residents by the end of this week.
The blaze has grown to 285,000 hectares. Chad Morrison with Alberta Wildfire expects the next few days to be difficult.
“We do expect the northern and northeast flanks to be challenged. We continue to make very good progress on hot spots around the community, but let me be clear: there’s thousands of them around there still that firefighters have to work and clean up. With the extreme fire behaviour ongoing around the outside, it’s still not safe for folks to be back there.”
The fire is still about 10 to 12 kilometers from the Saskatchewan border.