The Fort McMurray wildfire: what you need to know

As of May 13th, the area is once again facing severe fire conditions and a province-wide fire ban remains in place. Officials are warning that smoke from the wildfires burning across the province are being carried a great distance and people should be cautious of the air quality.

Up-to-date information for evacuees and those who want to help

Initial findings from a University of Alberta study show how the Fort McMurray wildfire continues to affect the firefighters who fought it. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

It's been almost two weeks since the fire known as "the beast" tore through Fort McMurray and the surrounding area.

The fire left 94,000 displaced and destroyed over 2,000 structures. Although there is still power and water being supplied to the community significant portions remain without these amenities. 

As of May 13th, the area is once again facing severe fire conditions and a province-wide fire ban remains in place. Officials are warning that smoke from the wildfires burning across the province are being carried a great distance and people should be cautious of the air quality.

Below is a breakdown of up-to-date information on the situation.

Important numbers

Campground facilities for evacuees: 1-877-537-2757 
To register for Red Cross: 1-888-350-6070
Up-to-date wildfire information: 310-4455 or 1-844-406-3276 

Re-entry

Police officers direct traffic under a cloud of smoke from a wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada on Friday, May 6, 2016. (The Associated Press)

There are currently seven re-entry teams on the ground in Fort McMurray assessing the damage. This phase is expected to take two weeks. The government listed five things that need to happen before the re-entry can begin:

  • Critical infrastructure is assessed and all needed repairs are made
  • Local government is re-established
  • Essential services are restored to a "basic level"
  • Hazardous areas are secure
  • Wildfire is no longer a threat to the community 

Wildfire situation

  • "The beast" sits at 2,410 square kilometres 
  • The fire is 13 kilometres from the Saskatchewan border 
  • Flare ups continue to occur near Anzac and MacDonald Island Park
  • 17 wildfires burning in Alberta — one held, 15 under control

Financial assistance

Albertans impacted by the Fort McMurray wildfires can now receive pre-loaded debit cards from the provincial government. (Numbers have been blurred to protect privacy). (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The Alberta government is offering $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent for emergency financial assistance to people displaced by the fire. The province is urging evacuees who aren't in "dire need of these funds to not claim them immediately."

You can receive the assistance at these locations:

  • Edmonton: Butterdome and NAIT North Lobby
    • May 12-19, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    • May 20, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • Calgary: McMahon Stadium and BMO Centre
    • May 12-19, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    • May 20, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • Lac La Biche: Bold Centre
    • May 13, 8 am – 8 pm

Donations

Hundreds of evacuees line up at the old Target store at the Kingsway Garden Mall, where Edmonton Emergency Relief Services has opened a centre for those who have fled Fort McMurray. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

In a press conference on May 12th, Edmonton Emergency Relief Society called the need for supplies a "desperate situation." The society says they need new clothing socks, underwear and bedding. According to spokesperson Nicole Geoffroy, the organization was initially inundated with donations, but "the need hasn't gone."

Donation drop-off locations: 

  • 9727-47 Avenue
    • Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    • Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
  • 3631-56 Avenue East (Hangar at Edmonton International Airport) 
    • Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. 
    • Saturday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Abandoned vehicles 

Vehicles stranded just 15 kilometres south of Fort McMurray get filled with fuel May 4, 2016. (Topher Seguin/Reuters)

Vehicles that ran out of gas and had to be abandoned during the evacuation will be towed to an impound lot in Wandering River for safety reasons. They will be returned at no charge, with a tank of gas, when it is safe to do so.

Call 310-4455 or 1-844-406-3276 to confirm that your car has been towed.

Damage

More than 2,400 structures were lost in the Fort McMurray wildfire. (The Canadian Press )
  • Two fatalities — 15-year-old Emily Ryan, 19-year-old Aaron Hodgson
  • 2,432 structures destroyed
  • 530 structures damaged
  • 25,000 structures still standing
  • Highway 63 is open only to through traffic for employees of oilsands operations
  • Travel to Fort McMurray is still restricted
  • Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation and Fort McMurray First Nation remain under an evacuation order

Personnel and equipment - Fort McMurray fire

Two RCMP police officers wear gas masks in the smoke from the wildfires near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, May 6, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Blinch - RTX2D741 (Mark Blinch/Reuters)
  • 509 firefighters 
  • 31 helicopters
  • 13 airtankers

Province-wide personnel and equipment

  • 1,733 firefighters
  • 104 helicopters
  • 154 pieces of heavy equipment
  • 26 air tankers

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With files from the CBC's Zoe Todd, Erika Stark and Andrea Ross