Gateway Gazette

Update 31: 2016 Wildfires (June 2 at 7 p.m.)

Current situation:

  • The Fort McMurray wildfire remains out of control but it has not seen any significant growth over the past 48 hours and is nearly 50 per cent contained. It is estimated to cover 581,695 hectares, including the Saskatchewan side, with a new perimeter estimate of 984 kilometres.
  • Extreme burning conditions still exist for some areas of the fire.
  • There are 2,520 firefighters and support staff, 99 helicopters and 226 pieces of heavy equipment battling this fire, with an estimate of about 420 kilometres of fire guard completed.
  • As of 9 a.m., there were 13 active wildfires in Alberta, with one (Fort McMurray) out of control.
  • Wildfire crews from across the world are supporting Alberta’s efforts, including 299 firefighters from South Africa.

Weather:

  • About four millimetres of rain fell over the fire yesterday.
  • Forecast for the Fort McMurray area for today: approximately 22 C, 40 per cent humidity, with west winds at 15 km/h.

Re-entry update:

  • Voluntary, phased re-entry has begun and will continue, with the exception of the neighbourhoods of Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways, which cannot be reoccupied permanently until debris is removed by the municipality.
  • The traffic plan developed in conjunction with the RMCP and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo continues.
  • Information Centres are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. On the first day of re-entry, 3,676 people visited the centres.
  • Before returning, renters should contact their landlords to determine if their units are ready for occupancy.
  • Conditions will be assessed daily and, if the situation changes, the re-entry schedule may be adjusted.
  • Fire crews need access to air space. Drones or other airborne devices may not be flown without the approval of the Regional Emergency Operations Centre.

Transportation plan update:

  • RCMP have removed traffic barricades from Highway 63. Traffic barricades remain in place for restricted areas in Fort McMurray.
  • Yesterday, nearly 5,000 vehicles travelled northbound on Highways 63 and 881.
  • Traffic is free flowing on Highways 63 and 881 in northbound and southbound directions, with good driving conditions.
  • Twinning of Highway 63 is complete between Fort McMurray and Highway 55 junction.
  • RCMP and sheriffs have increased their patrols on routes between Edmonton and Fort McMurray.
  • Please travel safely. Don’t take chances, obey the rules of the road and follow the speed limit.
  • 511 Alberta continues to be the best source for the latest highway information.

Re-entry information:

  • Voluntary Zone 1 re-entry began yesterday, Wednesday, June 1. Zone 1 includes the Lower Townsite, Anzac, Fort McMurray First Nation #468 and Gregoire Lake Estates.
  • It is estimated that approximately 8,000 of the eligible 13,000 people returned safely to the community yesterday.

Re-entry information for Zones 2, 3 and 4

  • Zone 2 including Parsons Creek, Stone Creek, Timberlea, Eagle Ridge and Dickinsfield began today.
  • Approximately 40,000 are eligible to return voluntarily. More than 20,000 people may return today.
  • Zones 3 and 4A begin Friday, June 3, and include Thickwood, Wood Buffalo, Gregoire, Prairie Creek and Saprae Creek Estates.
  • Phase 4B begins Saturday, June 4, for Grayling Terrace and Draper.

Information Centres are located at:

  • Fort McMurray Composite High School, 9803 King Street (wildfire relief funding debit cards available at this centre)
  • Vista Ridge, 1 Spruce Valley Drive, Saprae Creek
  • Anzac Community Hall, 105B-4 Christina Drive, Anzac
  • Holy Trinity High School, 230 Powder Drive
  • Eagle Ridge Community Centre, 301 Sparrow Hawk Drive
  • Westwood High School/YMCA, 221 Tundra Drive (wildfire relief funding debit cards available at this centre)
  • Oil Sands Discovery Centre, 515 MacKenzie Boulevard.

Residents are welcome to visit any of the information centres, regardless of their location.

Information for residents in Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill:

  • Homes in Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill cannot be occupied permanently until hazardous debris has been removed by the municipality.
  • A tackifier called Posi-Shell is being applied to debris in damaged areas. A tackifier is a powdery substance that dries to a hard shell, which prevents ash and other contaminants from becoming airborne. It is an environmentally safe, non-toxic compound that is commonly used in landfills.
  • Tackifier application is complete in Waterways and about 35 per cent complete in Abasand. Work is expected to begin in Beacon Hill today.

Services:

  • Even though some grocery, hardware and convenience stores are open, returning residents should bring basic necessities to last for up to 14 days, including food, drinking water and prescriptions.
  • While the waste-water treatment plant is becoming fully operational, residents are asked to help ensure it is not overwhelmed.
  • Please use water wisely – keep showers, laundry and vehicle washing to a minimum.

Information for all affected residents:

  • The Red Cross is providing financial travel assistance for those who are not receiving it through their insurance or workplace. Additional financial assistance for people returning to Fort McMurray is also available. Contact the Red Cross for details at 1-888-350-6070 or redcross.ca.
  • Out-of-province evacuees received an email on May 31 with detailed instructions on how to apply for wildfire relief funding (evacuees who stayed in Alberta received this funding as debit cards).
  • Applications will be accepted at more than 600 locations across Canada for out-of-province evacuees between June 1 and June 15. Location information is available online at the Government of Canada website at servicecanada.gc.ca.
  • Evacuees will need to attend in person with government-issued photo identification and documentation to substantiate their claims and applications.
  • For more information on services, out-of-province supports and updates, please visit the Government of Alberta emergency website at:emergency.alberta.ca.
  • AHS has health-care teams at several 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.
  • Licensed child care will not be available in Fort McMurray immediately upon re-entry. Government is working with child-care providers to support getting their programs operational as quickly as possible once operators re-enter the community. Families who need child care may want to consider waiting until licensed and approved options are available before they bring their children back to Fort McMurray.

Health information:

  • Restoration of the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre continues. As of Wednesday, June 1, the emergency department, laboratory services and diagnostic imaging are  available. On the first day of re-entry, the hospital did not see an increase in patient volume.
  • Alberta Health Services is providing 24/7 basic health services and emergency and urgent care at the Fort McMurray Urgent Care Centre, located at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre (9908 Penhorwood Street). The urgent-care facility will run throughout the re-entry period, until the hospital is fully operational.
  • Services at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre mirror the basic services currently available at the urgent-care facility. This helps to increase service capacity, but does not expand the types of services available in the community. Residents with the following medical issues should not return until the hospital is fully operational:
    • Those with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma;
    • Those who require regular primary care, home care or specialized treatment such as dialysis or cancer;
    • Those who were recently discharged from hospital or who have had a transplant; and
    • Women who are more than 36 weeks pregnant or who have a high-risk pregnancy.
  • More than 100 mental-health staff trained in psychological first aid, along with a team from British Columbia that specializes in disaster response, are available at each Information Centre. The centres will have walk-in appointments and are open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Community addiction and mental-health crisis teams are available at the hospital. Counselling for addiction and mental health, including walk-in appointments, is available at at the Syncrude Sports and Wellness Centre.
  • A roving community wellness team is providing mental health support. Staff are available from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on call overnight. They can be reached by calling 780-370-0182 or 780-792-6378 or HealthLink at 811.
  • A boil-water advisory remains in effect for the area of Fort McMurray, including the Fort McMurray First Nation, Saprae Creek, Fort McMurray International Airport, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Gregoire Lake Provincial Park and nearby work camps that pull water from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Water Treatment Plant.
  • The air-quality advisory issued by AHS for the Fort McMurray area remains in effect. 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.

Occupational Health and Safety:

Pet information:

  • The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s Municipal Law Enforcement Services, in co-operation with the Alberta SPCA and many other animal welfare organizations, conducted the largest pet evacuation in Canadian history.
  • More than 1,000 pets have been reunited with their owners.
  • Some pets remain unclaimed and an online, pet in-care gallery is on the municipality’s website at www.rmwb.ca.

Donation update:

  • The Red Cross has raised more than $125 million, which does not include matching funds.

Bears:

  • Fish and Wildlife Officers have confirmed that the bear situation in Fort McMurray is under control.
  • Garbage has been removed.
  • Returning residents are asked to ensure appliances and new garbage are secured until picked up or delivered to a waste management facility.
  • Report any bear concerns to the 24-hour line at 1-800-642-3800.

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