Gateway Gazette

Update 38: 2016 Wildfires (June 9 at 3:30 p.m.)

Current situation:

  • There was minimal growth in the Fort McMurray wildfire yesterday, and the fire is nearly 71 per cent contained. It is estimated to cover 586,707 hectares, including the Saskatchewan side, with a perimeter estimate of 1006 kilometres.
  • Crews have completed more than 535 kilometres of dozer guard.
  • Extreme burning conditions still exist for some areas of the fire.
  • There are 20 active wildfires in Alberta, with only the Fort McMurray fire out of control.
  • There are approximately 2,489 firefighters and support staff, 130 helicopters, 16 tankers and 213 pieces of heavy equipment battling fires across the province.
  • Environmental monitoring continues in the Fort McMurray region, including mobile air monitoring. Results of environmental testing data are now available online.
  • Hotspots are being managed in the Fort McMurray area. Anyone with information about new wildfires should call 1-866-394-3473. Reports of structural fires should be made to 911.
  • Weather forecast for the Fort McMurray area today: Approximately 15 C, 80 per cent relative humidity with winds from the east at 20 km/h, gusting up to 60 km/h.
  • Fire crews need safe access to air space. Drones or other airborne devices may not be flown without the approval of the Regional Emergency Operations Centre.
  • During the 17 telephone town halls, 161,426 individuals participated online or over the phone. (Individuals who participated in multiple calls were counted as a participant each time.)
  • Since voluntary re-entry began on June 1, 45,056 people have visited information centres.

Information for returning residents:

  • Before returning, renters should contact their landlords to determine if their units are ready for occupancy.
  • Three information centres are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • They are located at:
    • Holy Trinity High School, 230 Powder Drive. (Closing end of day Friday, June 10)
    • Westwood High School/YMCA, 221 Tundra Drive (wildfire relief funding debit cards available at this centre). (Closing end of day Friday, June 10)
    • Fort McMurray Composite High School, 9803 King Street (wildfire relief funding debit cards available at this centre). (Closing end of day Sunday, June 12)
    • Information Centres in Anzac, Vista Ridge, Eagle Ridge and the Oil Sands Discovery Centre have closed.
    • A new information centre will open in the Future Forward Building (9717 Franklin Avenue) to support long-term information needs beginning Monday, June 13; it will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Residents are welcome to visit any of the information centres, regardless of their location.
  • A boil-water advisory remains in effect for all areas of Fort McMurray other than the Lower Townsite. More information is available here:  http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/news/page13205.aspx
  • Please use water wisely while the water treatment plant is becoming fully operational.
  • The air-quality advisory issued by AHS for the Fort McMurray area remains in effect. Residents are advised to take appropriate precautions.
  • Returning residents are encouraged to check or clean their detectors, replace the batteries and test to ensure they are working properly.
  • 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.

Information for residents not immediately returning:

  • Property Visit Program:
    • For safety reasons, residents are not permitted to visit destroyed homes on their own. A specialized disaster response team will work with residents to visit properties.
    • Visits for residents whose homes were identified as “destroyed or unsafe to occupy” are being organized for all neighbourhoods, including Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways.
    • Residents should book visits through the PULSE line by calling 780-743-7000. More information about the Property Visit Program is available online through the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
    • 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 all affected neighbourhoods. Reapplication will occur after sifting operations are complete.

Information for out-of-province residents:

  • 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 until 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.

Information for all area residents:

  • Service Alberta has deployed a consumer investigation team to help people with issues such as scams and price gouging for renovations, accommodations, home inspections, clean-up contracts, etc. Anyone with concerns about price gouging should contact the Service Alberta Consumer Contact Centre at 1-877-427-4088.
  • The Alberta Emergency Management Agency has fixed prices for hotels and rental properties at April 30 rates.
  • Government is working with child-care providers to re-establish services in 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. The emergency department, laboratory services and diagnostic imaging are available. Since re-entry, the hospital has not seen a significant 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).
  • 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 through the information centres. The centres will have walk-in appointments and are open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents can also call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642
  • 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 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 are on call overnight. They can be reached by calling 780-370-0182 or 780-792-6378 or HealthLink at 811.

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