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Black Sand Lodge on fire, other camps at risk as fire swings east

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Black Sand Lodge on fire, other camps at risk as fire swings east

Wildfire Manager Chad Morrison explains the map of the active wildfire to reporters on May 17, 2016 // Chris Vandenbreekel - Harvard Broadcasting

The fire is still out of control.

That from Premier Rachel Notley ths morning at a press conference.

Notley updated the fire situation saying the wildfire is now 355,000 hectares in size. She added at the Cheecham tank farm the fire is being held.

All industry work camps north of Fort McMurray and south of Fort McKay were evacuated last night with about eight thousand people moved from the camps. Notley says there are remaining staff at the oil sands sites to maintain stability.

Notley says Black Sands lodge was destroyed and the Noralta and Birch Creek lodges were evacuated and at risk of fire; those lodges will be the a focus of suppression efforts today along with the Northlands product sawmill.

She says two separate explosions last night damaged roughly 10 homes in Thickwood and Dickinsfield, but the fires were swiftly controlled and put out quickly

Notley says poor air quality is hampering re-entry plans to the city although today’s level is 13, much better than yesterday’s 38.

As part of the re-entry plan, talks were under way with retail partners;  most facilities are intact and can recover quickly although they’ll have to wait a little longer with the poor air quality.

Electricity has been restored to most areas and gas has been restored to more than 60 per cent of city.

Damage assessments of 19,000 structures have been completed with 89 per cent deemed safe to occupy, 10 per cent destroyed, and one per cent need further inspection.

Notley says the community is mostly intact.

She says the government is still discussing re-entry with the RMWB  with  safety being the first priority; more information will be coming within the week.

Alberta Wildfire Manager Chad Morrison says the fire is being held just south of Suncor and Syncrude, with strong winds out of the west and high temperatures expected today. Morrison says he’s optimistic firefighters can keep the western flank of the fire from breaching Thickwood, Timberlea, and Parsons Creek.

He says fire guards are in place with previously burnt areas helping to provide a fire guard.

Morrison says the eastern front of the fire is likely to reach the Saskatchewan border later today.

With files from Chris Vandenbreekel



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