Gateway Gazette

Update 13: Fort McMurray Wildfire (May 12 at 1:30 p.m.)

May 12, 2016

Today’s updates on the wildfire around Fort McMurray

“I know how strong the desire is, in the aftermath of an event like this, to be back home, and start putting your life back together. There are a number of things that need to happen to make the community safe. ”

Danielle Larivee, Minister of Municipal Affairs

Current situation

  • Fire conditions remain extreme in the province.
  • A total of 17 wildfires are burning: one out of control, one being held, nine under control and six turned over to the responsible parties. There were four new fire starts overnight.
  • There  are 1,733 firefighters, 104 helicopters, 154 pieces of heavy equipment and 26 air tankers currently battling the fires.
  • The Fort McMurray wildfire is now approximately 241,000 hectares.
  • There are 509 wildland firefighters, 31 helicopters and 13 air tankers working on the Fort McMurray fire.
  • The wildfire is approximately 13 kilometres from the Saskatchewan boundary.
  • Flare-ups have occurred near Anzac and MacDonald Island Park.
  • New distribution centre added at NAIT.

Additional updates:

Update on plans for re-entry

  • The 2016 Wildfire Recovery Task Force is meeting regularly to plan re-entry into affected communities.
  • We expect to be able to share the re-entry plan within two weeks, and the plan will answer most questions about timing.
  • The recovery of Fort McMurray will occur in phases. The primary focus right now is to stabilize the community.
  • Workers have entered the community to re-establish water services, electricity, gas services, sewage and wastewater, telephone services and other utilities.
  • Work is also underway to inspect major infrastructure to ensure safety – this includes major roadways, bridges and health facilities.
  • Five things need to be in place for re-entry:
    • Wildfire is no longer an imminent threat to the community
    • Critical infrastructure is repaired to provide basic service
    • Essential services, such as fire, EMS, police and healthcare, are restored to a basic level
    • Hazardous areas are secure
    • Local government is re-established
  • These are important steps on the road to recovery. We appreciate that residents have been patient and we ask for your continued patience. We want to assure Albertans we are doing everything we can to help affected residents return safely to their community as quickly as possible.

Emergency Financial Assistance – Debit Cards:

  • $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependant in one-time emergency financial assistance is  being provided to people who have been displaced.
  • Distribution centres opened on May 11 at four locations – an additional location has been added at NAIT in Edmonton and will open today at 2 p.m. (Parking in the NAIT parkade is free of charge for evacuees.) Please be advised that this location is considerably smaller than the Butterdome.
  • Distribution centres will be open until May 20 as follows:

Edmonton

Edmonton Butterdome, 114 Street – 87 Avenue
NAIT North Lobby, 11762 – 106 Street NEW

May 11, 2 pm – 8 pm
May 12-19, 8 am – 8 pm
May 20, 8 am – 12 pm

Calgary

McMahon Stadium, Red & White Club, 1833 Crowchild Trail NW
BMO Centre, Calgary Stampede Park, 20 Roundup Way SW

May 11, 2 pm – 8 pm
May 12-19, 8 am – 8 pm
May 20, 8 am – 12 pm

Lac La Biche (Open May 11-13)

Bold Centre, Penalty Box Upstairs, 8702 – 91 Avenue

May 11, 2 pm – 8 pm
May 12-13, 8 am – 8 pm

  • For additional information, please contact 310-4455 toll-free in Alberta or 1-844-406-3276 toll-free outside Alberta. Since this disaster began, approximately 7,900 calls have come in; yesterday there were more than 6,400 calls to the centre.
  • In order to allow for immediate distribution to people who are most urgently in need of this assistance, we’re asking evacuees who aren’t in dire need of these funds to not claim them immediately. There are enough debit cards for every eligible evacuee.

Update on Canadian Armed Forces assistance

  • The Canadian Armed Forces have played an important role supporting response efforts, helping to safely evacuate residents, transporting essential firefighting equipment and personnel, and delivering other essential supplies.
  • While fire conditions remain extreme, favourable weather conditions have allowed firefighters to make significant progress with suppression efforts, reducing the threat to people, property and infrastructure.
  • Based on current conditions and forecasts, it has been determined that provincial resources are sufficient to support emergency response and firefighting work. Military assistance is no longer required.
  • The government wishes to thank the many dedicated Armed Forces personnel who supported the province when their help was needed. If conditions should drastically change, the government will re-engage any necessary support, including asking Canadian Armed Forces military for help.

Evacuation information:

  • Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation remain under a mandatory evacuation order.
  • There are 13 reception centres operating within the province. Additional details are available on the Alberta government emergency updates website: www.alberta.ca/emergency.
  • Preliminary re-entry planning is underway; a schedule for re-entry is expected within two weeks.
  • Albertans can stay up-to-date on wildfire-related information by calling 310-4455 in Alberta; 1-844-406-3276, and on the Alberta Emergency Alert and Alberta Wildfire apps.

Information for affected residents:

  • Mental health support is available by calling Alberta’s 24-hour Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
  • AHS has health care teams at several evacuation/reception centres and help is also available by calling Health Link toll-free at 811 or the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642.
  • A telephone town hall has been scheduled from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for Thursday, May 12.
  • Evacuees who have registered their cellphone numbers and emergency contact numbers with the Red Cross will be phoned before 7:00 p.m.
  • A transitional shelter plan is being developed for those displaced by the wildfires. Anyone at a reception centre, community centre or hotel is asked to stay where they are for now. We are working to move people to more comfortable, transitional accommodations as quickly as possible.
  • All evacuees should register with the Red Cross – no matter where they are currently. This will help ensure they have access to the services they may need, including access to emergency financial assistance. Register: online at RedCross.ca; or via phone at 1-888-350-6070.

Health-related information:

  • A boil water advisory remains in effect for the area of Fort McMurray including Anzac, Conklin, Gregoire Lake Provincial Park, Janvier and nearby work camps that pull water from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Water Treatment Plant.
  • AHS has issued an air-quality advisory for the Fort McMurray area, as well as a precautionary advisory for communities in the North Zone due to wildfires; residents are advised to take appropriate precautions. Real-time air-quality data and information is available at www.environment.alberta.ca/apps/aqhi/aqhi.aspx.

Transportation updates:

  • Highway 63 is open to through traffic only to allow employees and supplies of oil sands operations to return and resume production.
  • This is not a call for workers or residents to return to the Fort McMurray area. There is no public access into Fort McMurray. Travel into Fort McMurray is still restricted to emergency response and essential services only.
  • The RCMP traffic control point for northbound traffic has been moved away from the Highway 63/881 junction to the oversized load rest area eight kilometres south of Fort McMurray.
  • Any vehicles travelling into Fort McMurray are required to register for a permit at this traffic control point.
  • All drivers are reminded to be extra safe, obey all signs, roadblocks and RCMP directions, and make sure you have sufficient water, food and fuel.
  • Highway 881 remains closed in both directions between the Highway 63 junction and just north of Janvier due to wildfire.

Abandoned vehicles:

  • RCMP have removed vehicles abandoned on the highway.
  • Individuals forced to abandon their vehicles on Highway 63 during the evacuation should call 310-4455 to confirm if your vehicle is at the Wandering River yard, approximately 230 km north of Edmonton.
  • Vehicles being retrieved from the Wandering River tow station will be filled with enough fuel to reach the nearest gas station.
  • There will be no charge to owners of vehicles that were towed.
  • To claim your vehicle, you will need to provide your driver’s licence or other documentation and show that the vehicle registration matches the information on your driver’s licence.
  • It is still unsafe for vehicles abandoned north of Fort McMurray to be recovered; information will be shared as available.
  • Costs for towing and storage of abandoned vehicles will be covered by the Province of Alberta.

Campground facilities:

  • The Beaver Lake Provincial Recreation Area campground near Lac La Biche is Alberta Parks’ primary location for evacuees who are equipped to camp. There is no charge.
  • Alberta Parks will also accept evacuees equipped to camp in other provincial campgrounds, also free of charge.
  • Evacuees can contact the Alberta Parks’ Contact Centre at 1-877-537-2757 for information on campground locations/options.
  • Campers are asked to identify themselves as Fort McMurray evacuees to receive free camping.
  • Due to the wildfire impact, the following northeast region provincial parks campsites are closed: Gregoire Lake, Hangingstone and Maqua Lake.
  • Saskatchewan Provincial Parks are offering free entry and camping to people evacuated from Fort McMurray due to wildfires. More information on Saskatchewan parks can be found online at www.saskparks.net/.

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