With updates: High winds continue to challenge firefighters

Update: 6:00 p.m. May 12, 2024

All schools remain open Monday in both the Fort McMurray Public and Fort McMurray Catholic School Divisions. District officials for both divisions say they are closely monitoring the wildfire situation and will communicate directly with parents if there are any changes. In light of the fire, Grade 9 provincial aptitude tests scheduled for May 13, 2024 will be deferred until a later date.

Update 3:00 p.m. May 12, 2024

Wildfire MWF-017 has grown to 5,501 hectares. It lies about 16 km southwest of Fort McMurray, on the southern edge of the Athabasca River valley. Fanned by yesterday’s strong winds, the wildfire expanded significantly towards the southeast and is now roughly 12 km west of Highway 63.

Throughout the night, helicopters equipped with night vision capabilities dropped water on the southeastern perimeter of the fire. Today, six teams of wildland firefighters, along with 13 helicopters and water-bombers, are combating the wildfire. Additionally, heavy equipment is focusing on a firebreak on the northeastern front of the blaze. As a precautionary measure, structure protection efforts are underway in Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray 468 First Nation.

An evacuation alert remains in place for:

  • Fort McMurray
  • Saprae Creek
  • Anzac
  • Fort McMurray First Nation #468
  • Gregoire Lake Estates
  • Rickards Landing Industrial Park

Harvard media news will continue to provide updates on the situation as they become available.

Update: 8:00 a.m. May 12, 2024

Alberta Wildfire is reporting fire MWF-017 continues to burn out of control, and is now 4,000 hectares in size.

Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement for Fort McMurray. Smokey conditions are expected beginning at noon Sunday and are expected to continue until Monday morning.

Environment Canada states wildfire smoke can be harmful to people’s health even at low concentrations. Those with lung disease (such as asthma) or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke.

Update: 8:30 p.m. May 11, 2024:

Fire MWF-017 has potentially impacted operations at the Fort McMurray International Airport.

The Fort McMurray International Airport is asking passengers to check with their airlines for flight information.


Alberta wildfire officials report that fire MWF-017 remains 16 kilometers southwest of Fort McMurray but has grown to 1,992 hectares. The fire is burning approximately 19 km west and 10 km north of Highway 63.

Five crews of wildland firefighters, nine helicopters, and water-bombers worked on the southeast perimeter today. Windy conditions continue to challenge firefighting efforts. Heavy equipment is working to build a fire-guard on the east flank of the blaze.

Regional Fire Chief Jody Butz provided a video update on the wildfire situation. According to Butz, winds from the northwest are pushing the fire east-southeast. The RMWB urges people to avoid flying drones near wildfires, as drone activity can endanger firefighting aircraft and impede suppression efforts.

Butz expressed empathy for the emotional toll of the fire situation, stating, ‘I understand the emotional strain these evacuation alerts cause on everyone. Please remember to seek support if needed.’

Extreme fire danger is expected to persist through Sunday, May 12, 2024. Today, the evacuation alert within the RMWB was expanded to include communities south of Fort McMurray and Saprae Creek.

Evacuation alerts currently effect for:

  • Fort McMurray,
  • Saprae Creek,
  • Anzac,
  • Fort McMurray First Nation #468,
  • Gregoire Lake Estates, and
  • Rickards Landing Industrial Park.

Residents under evacuation alerts are asked to prepare to leave on short notice. The RMWB recommends assembling an emergency kit containing essential supplies to sustain individuals and families for up to 72 hours, including water, food, flashlights, radios, first aid kits, and important documents.

Additional recommended items include extra water for cooking and cleaning, clothing, bedding, toiletries, communication devices, pet supplies, medications, tools, fuel-operated stoves, and vehicle emergency kits containing blankets, tools, and safety equipment.

RCMP and Alberta Wildfire continue to monitor the conditions on Highway 63. According to an alert issued by the Municipality at 2:30, authorities are anticipating that Highway 63 will be impacted by the MWF-017 wildfire, and may be temporarily closed. The closure would be south of the Highway 63 and 881 junction. It is not believed that Highway 881 will be immediately impacted. Access to Fort McMurray will not be impeded as Highway 881 is not expected to be impacted or closed.

Residents are advised to check with Alberta 511 before traveling.

Forecasters at Alberta Wildfire are issuing a fire-weather warning for our region. According to the forecast, Fort McMurray is likely to experience dry and windy conditions on Sunday, May 12, 2024. Fire weather forecasters expect there will be easy burning conditions and high rates of spread in the regions of both Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan.

A fire restriction remains in place across the Fort McMurray Forest Area. Under this restriction: , existing fire permits are restricted, suspended, or canceled and no new fire permits will be issued. Safe wood campfires within fire rings in campgrounds are allowed, however, all fires on public lands including backcountry and random camping spots are prohibited.

Currently, the province has not issued a prohibition against the use of Off-Highway Vehicles, but authorities are urging everyone to exercise caution when working and recreating outdoors as fires can start and spread quickly under current conditions.

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