The fire in Fort McMurray has crossed the border into Saskatchewan.
One of the largest wildfires in Canadian history, the fire now spreads across 505,000 hectares. Alberta Wildfire Manager, Chad Morrison, says the threat has diminished near oil sands facilities and the community of Fort McMurray.
“We continue to make great progress with all of the efforts of the firefighters working there. Obviously, the spread right now is off in remote forested areas off to the east. There is some really good natural barriers there. We are working hard with Saskatchewan and our firefighters as it continues to grow.”
The fire is now burning around 700 hectares in Saskatchewan, he added.
The province is closing down the cash card distribution centres May 20, at noon, but the funds will be available for people in need at Alberta Works offices next week.
Yesterday, province set June 1 as the tentative date for some residents of Fort McMurray to start returning home: only those living in the least affected areas, and provided a number of conditions are met; if the wildfire is no longer an imminent threat to the community or critical infrastructure, essential services are restored, local government re-established, and hazardous areas are secure, then some people will be in the clear to start heading back.
Executive Director of Alberta Emergency Management Agency Scott Long says when residents start to come into communities, there will be welcoming centres set up in each neighbourhood.
“I know as part of the re-entry planning is debris management, traffic control plans, access plans, welcoming plans and ATCO is going to link up with residents once they come in to go in and do the safety checks.”
Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee says there will be support in the community as well.
“I think it is important to state very clearly that Fort McMurray residents going home, whether their home is intact or not, are not going to be left on their own once they come into the community. We will make sure they have the information and the resources to deal with what they are faced with.”
Air quality in Fort McMurray was sitting at a 3 Thursday morning but is expected to fluctuate to be closer to 10 later in the afternoon. The day before was sitting at 51.