Overnight efforts, rain, and wind direction helping limit fire growth near Fort McMurray

Progress is being made by firefighting crews battling the out-of-control wildfire southwest of Fort McMurray. 

The fire was remapped last night. It now sits at 19,820 hectares in size. Alberta Wildfire says the fire did not decrease in size, but it was mapped more accurately, leading to the decrease in hectares. 

The wildfire is still about 4.5 kilometres from the intersection of Highways 63 and 881, anf 5.5 kilometres from the landfill. 

Wind pushing the fire to the east and rain in the forecast is anticipated to help the efforts today. Firefighters are on the fire line today to work on a containment line while helicopters and air tankers continue to drop water on the active edges of the fire. 

Provincial Information Officer for Alberta Wildfire Josee St. Onge says up until 11:00 last night when the rain started, fire crews still saw open flames on this fire. 

View of MWF017 wildfire from 10:00 Wednesday night. Photo Courtesy: Alberta Wildfire

Information Unit Manager Christie Tucker spoke during Thursday morning’s provincial update and said great progress was made overnight thanks to night vision helicopter crews.

There are 172 firefighters, 22 helicopters, and 57 pieces of heavy equipment assigned to the fire. 

Fire bans are still in place for the entire Fort McMurray Forest Area. The RMWB issued their own Fire Ban that includes areas outside the Urban Service Area, such as Fort Chipewyan, Fort McKay,  Draper, Saprae Creek Estates, Gregoire Lake Estates and Anzac. 

The evacuation order is still in effect for the neighbourhoods of  Prairie Creek, Beacon Hill, Abasand, and Grayling Terrace.  The evacuation alert is still in effect for the rest of Fort McMurray, Saprae Creek, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation and Anzac.

Regional Fire Chief Jody Butz says those who had to evacuate will come home to their neighbourhood looking normal, adding bulldozers have not made their way into the communities and utilities such as natural gas and electricity are still connected. 

During the provincial update Thursday morning, Minister of Forestry and Parks Todd Loewen said Albertans who have been evacuated from their homes for seven or more days can now apply for a one-time Emergency Evacuation Payment. That program is only open to those under the evacuation order, meaning those who voluntarily evacuated are not eligible. Those who are under the Fort McMurray evacuation order are expected to be allowed to return home on Tuesday. 

Across the province, there are 41 active wildfires, according to Alberta Wildfire. Six of them are in the Fort McMurray Forest Area, including the lone out-of-control fire in the province. Three of the fires are under control, while two – including the one that sparked just north of Parsons Creek on Wednesday – are being held. 

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