Province declares state of emergency in relation to Fort McMurray wildfires

  • May. 4, 2016 10:10 p.m.

EMERGENCY - Pictured here is the wildfire that has devastated the Fort McMurray community. The Province has now declared a state of emergency.

The Province has now declared a state of emergency in regards to the wildfire raging in Fort McMurray.

During a press conference this afternoon, officials gave an update on the situation in the area and said firefighters continue to be extremely challenged in trying to fight the fires as temperatures reach nearly 30C and winds have also picked up.

Chad Morrison, a senior manager with Alberta Wildfire Prevention and Enforcement, said the fire is behaving as expected.

“The winds have shifted earlier in the day and they are blowing from the west about 20 (km/hr) and gusting to 40 (km/hr),” he said. “There are very hot and dry conditions with extreme wildfire behaviour occurring on all fronts around the fire right now. We expect this fire to continue challenging firefighters well into the evening tonight.”

The fires have caused extensive damage to the community. To this point, about 1,600 buildings in the City are reported to have been destroyed and the fire has spread to about 10,000 hectares. Reports also show that upwards of 80% of the Beacon Hill area have been destroyed.

Later on Tuesday, a mandatory evacuation was put in place for the entire city.

“We have 16 air tankers on this fire, 12 helicopters and over 100 firefighters with many more on the way from jurisdictions from across Canada,” said Morrison.

These extra resources include between seven and 10 RCMP officers from Red Deer with more on standby if needed and 10 firemedics from Red Deer with a variety of firefighting apparatuses.

“Once those resources start to filter in they will be assigned to the highest priority fires,” said Morrison.

Scott Long, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said Fort McMurray’s downtown core was being held, “Through some Herculean efforts of the structural firefighters in the area.”

Meanwhile, Long said the priority remains the safety of all Albertans including first responders, the confirmation of all evacuees including their locations and their requirements.

“The sheer number of evacuees has created some challenges, as you can well imagine,” he said. “We have essentially 10,000 (evacuees) that are in the area of Fort McMurray north on Highway 63 at oil and gas camps and we have the bulk of the evacuees being at the south of the province displaced at a number of evacuation centres.

“I urge all evacuees to register with the Red Cross by calling 1-888-350-6070.”

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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