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UPDATE: Grande Prairie officials headed to help in Fort McMurray fire

UPDATE #2: Grande Prairie Fire Department is ready to go help fight fires in Fort McMurray if requested. Fire Chief Dan Lemieux says they have been asked to be on stand-by.

“We have not deployed any resources yet. We have one engine ready to go. We have been asked to wait for the call from the government.”

He adds that many resources have been sent from Edmonton to help. The 9 largest cities in Alberta are in contact via conference call every couple of hours to keep up to date.

RCMP say they will be sending officers to Fort McMurray to help. They say they are not able to release how many they will be sending but it will not impact the response in Grande Prairie.

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UPDATE: Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for the entirety of the city with most of those taking highway 63 as the last remaining exit yesterday causing grid lock. CBC is reporting most of the evacuees are headed to Edmonton while some have headed North.

The Northern Lights Regional hospital has been evacuated with all acute patients being airlifted to the hospital and other health care facilities in Edmonton. The military has also been called to help.

According to the RM of Wood Buffalo, 80 per cent of homes have been lost to fire in the Beacon Hill area. There has also been serious loss in Waterways and Abasand. 12 trailer homes have been lost on McKinlay Cres. One house has been lost in each of Grayling Terrace, Downtown, and Thickwood. There has been two houses lost in Dickinsfield. They have not reported any damage in the Gregoire area or Saline Creek while the Draper area is still under assessment.

UPDATE: Highway 63 heading southbound out of Fort McMurray has been re-opened.

At 29,000 people, Fort McMurray is now the subject of the largest ever fire-related evacuation in Alberta history. A 2,600 hectare fire is burning out of control and is threatening the community. Premier Rachel Notley says their first priority is to keep residents safe.

“We know that people are worried; they’re concerned for their families. Our focus is the safety and we have a growing number of officials on the ground that are also focused on that safety and we will do everything possible to ensure that people get to a safe and that they then get the services that they need when they’re there.”

All of Fort McMurray is under a mandatory evacuation notice. The hospital is being evacuated and Notley says she’s spoken to Justin Trudeau about possibly getting resources to help airlift people in need out.

A travel advisory has been issued for the Fort McMurray area as evacuees are using Highway 63 in both directions, and the highway is closed at Mackenzie Boulevard. Bruce Meyer with Alberta Forestry says a cold front is expected from the east tomorrow afternoon.

“The winds will be switched from the west heading east or from the northwest heading southeast. They’ll be gusting anywhere from 25 to 50 kilometres an hour so it’s expected to be a more intense burning day.”

Executive Director of Provincial Operations, for the Alberta Emergency Management Agency Scott Long adds that at this point they’re looking to bring in additional firefighters on the ground, but they’re maxed out on resources in the air.

“Everything that can be done is being done. It is a very dynamic situation; information is changing continuously. Right now we know that structures have burned; I can’t tell you how many. Our priority is the safety of Albertans and the safe evacuation of Albertans.”

There are reports that the fire has burned down a hotel and homes. 7-thousand people were evacuated during the Slave Lake wildfire in 2011.

You can donate to evacuees at the Red Cross website.

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