Fire burning on outskirts of Fort McMurray

The fire started around 4 p.m. Saturday and is burning in a ravine near the Abasand area. It's being described as under control.

Forest fire risk level in Fort McMurray jumps from low to very high

A helicopter loads up with water from the Athabasca river en route to fight a fire on the outskirts of Fort McMurray. (Ryan Thompson/Facebook)

A fire is burning right on the outskirts of Fort McMurray.

The fire started around 4 p.m. Saturday and is burning in a ravine near the Abasand  area. It's being described as under control. 

Jody Butz, the assistant deputy chief of operations for the regional emergency services, said the reason the fire is worrisome is it's proximity to the town. 

"It's a few hundred yards down in the river valley, that's the concern, it has a chance of climbing up the hill," Butz said.
The fire is being described as under control. (Ryan Thompson/Facebook)

"It's near some structures and houses, but we've got a defensive line in between the fire and the houses. We're not really worried about it, it's just going to time to get it under control."

Butz said the response to the fire has been large, including bringing out water bombers to create the defensive line.

"Now we have ground crews going around trying to get the perimeter of it supported by some helicopters and their drop buckets," said Butz.

This fire comes a day after another one burned near the town for several hours on Friday. Butz said the fire department had anticipated a dry season so they were fully prepared for both fires.

From low risk to 'very high'

Earlier in the day the forest fire risk level in Fort McMurray was raised from low to very high.

Lynn Daina from the Agriculture and Forestry department said an increase in temperatures and wind plus a drop in humidity makes for conditions ripe for forest fires. 

"Going into next week we're looking at very high temperatures and fairly dry conditions," she said. 

Daina said the fire risk levels allows the province to preposition its resources — 463 firefighters, 40 helicopters, 58 pieces of heavy equipment and nine air tankers — to where fires are anticipated.

Water bombers were brought in to create a defensive line between the houses and the fire. (Ryan Thompson/Facebook)

Daina said the fire in Abasand, and many other fires, are caused by human activity and implores everyone to use caution.   

"If you're lighting a campfire to soak it, stir it, and soak it again," said Daina "If you're on an off-highway vehicle or a quad in the bush make sure the debris is cleared because it get's up to 200 degrees celsius."

"That is what causes forest fires."