Fort McMurray schools open Monday, wildfire evacuation warning still active

As of 7;30 p.m., the wildfire has not moved closer to Fort McMurray and is still 16 kilometres southwest of the city.

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Fort McMurray’s public and Catholic school districts say their schools will be open on Monday. Both districts anticipate some families will keep children home while people in much of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo are being told to prepare for a potential evacuation.

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The evacuation warning applies to people in Fort McMurray, Anzac, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation, Gregoire Lake Estates, Saprae Creek Estates and Rickards Landing Industrial Park.

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Light rain showers are expected this evening and overnight. More showers are expected tomorrow, which will help lower fire activity. This will give firefighters a good window to continue making progress on containing the fire,” reads a 7:30 p.m. update from Alberta Wildfire.

“There is no immediate risk to these communities, the alert ensures residents are prepared to evacuate if conditions change,” reads a statement from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB).

All Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) scheduled for May 13 to 17 will now be held at a date that will be announced soon.

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The wildfire southwest of Fort McMurray more than doubled in size last night. Strong winds are pushing the fire northwest towards the Athabasca River, but away from Fort McMurray.

As of 7:30 p.m., Alberta Wildfire says the wildfire has grown to 6,579 hectares but has not moved closer to Fort McMurray. The wildfire, which is called MWF-017, is still 16 kilometres southwest of the city.

The wildfire is 12 kilometres northwest of Highway 63. The highway remains clear and open. On Saturday, the RMWB feared wildfire smoke south of Fort McMurray could become so thick that Highway 63 would have to close temporarily. Smoke was not threatening Highway 881.

As a precaution, structure protections are being deployed in Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray 468 First Nation.

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Today the wildfire was attacked by six crews of wildland firefighters, 13 helicopters and airtankers. Heavy equipment was used to build a fire guard on its northeast edge.

Two helicopters equipped with night vision will battle the fire overnight by dropping water on the fire with their buckets.

Other nearby wildfires held, Bowman urges calm

MWF-017 was spotted on Thursday. It was 25 kilometres away and 200 hectares when an evacuation warning was sent on Friday shortly before 7 p.m. Mayor Sandy Bowman says people should still be prepared for a potential evacuation.

“I know everyone’s feeling unsettled and stressed right now. Our community knows all too well how this feels, but our past experience means we are also very well prepared to handle whatever comes our way,” Bowman said in a Saturday video on his Facebook page.

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“This is a good time to make preparations like packing whatever you would need and making plans… The most important thing you can do is to remain prepared, stay calm and stay informed.”

Other wildfires have also sparked close to Fort McMurray and Anzac in recent days. Firefighters have been quick to stop them from spreading. A wildfire that started south of Anzac on Saturday is extinguished. A wildfire southwest of Gregoire is no longer growing and considered held.

“Everyone involved is working hard to control this wildfire and ensure the safety of everyone in our region,” said Bowman.

The municipality advises people to:  

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