The fire in Fort McMurray has ballooned to 355,000 hectares in size. It was 285,000 yesterday. Chad Morrison with Alberta Wildfire says more growth is expected today, with strong winds from the west and hot and dry conditions.
“We expect the eastern front to reach the Saskatchewan border likely today with the western winds, but it is a dynamic situation and extreme fire conditions exist. We don’t see any relief at this point until we see rain in the forecast.”
Several oil and gas camps north of the city are threatened, and roughly 8,000 non-essential workers were evacuated Monday night. Premier Rachel Notley says the Black Sands Lodge has been completely destroyed, including all 665 housing units.
“All industry work camps north of Fort McMurray and south of Fort McKay were issued a mandatory evacuation order. The remaining staff will ensure site safety and stability while it is safe to do so, and plans are in place to evacuate them if and when needed.”
About 6,000 of those workers went north to camps the province says are not threatened at this time.
There have been more homes lost in Fort McMurray. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo says there were two separate explosions in both the Dickinsfield and Thickwood neighbourhoods last night.
The province has confirmed roughly 10 structures were destroyed but the areas are no longer under immediate threat. Scott Long with Alberta Emergency Management says the cause is still under investigation.
“It just highlights the uncertainty of the challenges of re-entry planning and re-establishing essential services. We’ve restored 60 per cent of the gas infrastructure in Fort McMurray; no explosions. Part of the challenge is that we are not going into anyone’s home at all so what caused it [is] unknown.”
A plan for re-entry is expected by the end of this week. However, extreme air quality levels will likely delay some of the work needed for evacuees to get back home.