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Fort McMurray Fire Chief passes the torch

Fort McMurray Fire Chief Darby Allen has stepped down as director of emergency management for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. After a week of leading the fight against the wildfire in that community, he says he’ll be taking some time off to spend with his family.

“I was in a place where I told some people what to do and this is when we should do it, and all those hundreds of people did that for me so I praise them; I’m humbled by them and I’m proud to be part of that team.”

Allen became the human face of efforts to fight the fire that left more than 2,400 structures destroyed, but another 25,000 saved. The wildfire is now 241,000 hectares in size, and while hotter weather is expected again starting this weekend, officials say it will come from the southwest and continue to push the blaze away from the city.

The province says it no longer needs help from Canadian Armed Forces. Members helped in evacuating residents, providing supplies to isolated First Nations communities, and transported essential firefighting equipment and personnel. Brigadier General Wayne Eyre says he knows the fight is not over and they be keeping staff at the Provincial Operations Centre in Edmonton.

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“I just want to add how impressed we in your nation’s uniform have been with the professional response of the province and of the municipality. Moreover, the resiliency and compassion of our fellow Albertans. It makes us proud to be your Canadian Armed Forces.”

In just one day, the province has handed out more than $7 million of emergency funding to more than 6,000 evacuees from Fort McMurray. The debit cards were made available Wednesday, and Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee says a second centre has been added in Edmonton.

“As expected, there were significant lineups at the four distribution centres. We continue to ask that those who are not in desperate need of funds to wait a few days; it will keep the lineups shorter for those who really need the support right now.”

A timeline for re-entry isn’t expected until the end of next week.

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