After ballooning to 85,000 hectares, growth of the Fort McMurray wildfire slowed down Thursday. Winds are blowing the fire southeast, away from the city.
By the end of tonight, Premier Rachel Notley says 8,000 people in oil and camps north of the city should be evacuated down south by air. Executive Director of Provincial Operations for the Alberta Emergency Management Agency Scott Long hopes to more by ground Friday.
“So out in front of ground convoys when they start, there will be a [Department of National Defence] helicopter that will be out in front to spot to make sure that there is no issues. RCMP escort in front and back and they will be done in a packet, controlled manner, so groups of vehicles being escorted.”
It was deemed too dangerous to try and take Highway 63 Thursday. Once it’s opened, fuel will also be brought up.
Officials can’t yet speculate on when Fort McMurray residents will be able to return home, but it won’t be a matter of days. Premier Notley says it’s clear the damage to the community is extensive and it’s not safe for residents.
“Firefighters continue to battle a very dangerous wildfire. Once that immediate threat is passed, we will need to spend as much time as it takes to assess the infrastructure that is vital to support a community safely.”
Some people will be allowed to visit their homes to get valuable and assess damage, but only when it’s safe to do so.