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Fort McMurray evacuees begin phased in re-entry tomorrow

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The first group of the Fort McMurray evacuees will make their way into the community tomorrow. The first zone includes the lower townsite, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nations communities. Executive Director of Alberta Emergency Management Agency Scott Long says transportation contractors will be along the route to ensure safe travel.

“As well to ensure the safety of evacuees, RCMP will be minding traffic on the ground and in the air. We also have STARS air ambulance assets throughout the zone. Red Cross will be transporting 2000 people on buses each day”

Although they do have room for the 2,000 people, Red Cross only has around 150 people signed up for travel. Long adds that according to surveys they have done there could be 40 to 50 per cent of the population returning to Fort McMurray in the next few days. Long adds that the rebuilding process has already begun and contractors have been reached out to.

“Based on lessons learned from Slave Lake and floods, the government’s recovery task force has already been stood up.”

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He says one thing to watch for in the rebuilding process will be traces of arsenic. The water treatment plant is producing potable water now but the cisterns were contaminated with ashes from the fire. Long explains that the filter system went offline at some point as well so there is possibility for bacteria in the water. There is a systematic flushing going on in each parts of the treatment plant. They are doing tests to make sure there is no contamination but a boil advisory remains in place.

There has been minimal growth to the fire in the last few days and Long says there is no immediate threat to the community. The fire does remain out of control at over 579,000 hectares.

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