Posted on May 5, 2016

An update on the Fort McMurray fire

Fort McMurray fire, May 2016

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the fire in Fort McMurray. I’d like to extend my personal thanks to everyone across our region and our province for the massive outpouring of goodwill in this time of crisis; many have volunteered, donated or opened their homes to assist. I’d also like to give my sincere thanks to first responders for their ongoing efforts.  Those who are looking to donate are encouraged to contact the Canadian Red Cross.

The protection of Albertans and their communities from the threat of wildfire remains our priority. Fire conditions remain extreme, with 18 new starts yesterday. A total of 49 wildfires are burning, with seven considered out of control, 12 being held, 23 under control, and seven turned over to the responsible parties. Cooler temperatures of 16 C are predicted, but lower humidity and winds at 25 kilometres, gusting to 40 kilometres per hour, make weather a significant factor.

Our priority is ensuring Albertans are safe.

Mandatory evacuation orders are still in place for Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation and Mackenzie County near High Level. We want to ensure that people listen to authorities and do not attempt to return at this time. This is for public safety. A provincially declared state of emergency for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is in effect.

Municipal affairs has taken over as the lead ministry for dealing with the fire and I am in regular contact with the relevant officials to receive information and offer assistance. Our priority is ensuring Albertans are safe. Our fire crews are working hard to reduce the threat of fire to people, homes and infrastructure. People are wondering what we here in Athabasca can do in terms of supporting this evacuation; I am working with emergency services to discuss any and all possibilities.

Due to heavy smoke and fire, motorists are being asked not to travel to Ft. McMurray on either Highway 63 or Highway 881. Only essential travel should be undertaken. The southbound highway is very congested with traffic moving slowly, especially between Atmore and Wandering River. Please be careful. We are aware that people are running out of fuel on Hwy 63 and are working to help them. Emergency gas and diesel are temporarily available along Highway 63. The fire southeast of Ft. McMurray has increased in severity. Our government is working closely with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to ensure the evacuation of homes and neighborhoods is orderly and safe.