Alberta Premier Rachel Notley will travel to Fort McMurray on Monday to survey the damage from a massive wildfire that caused the oilpatch city to be evacuated last week.
Notley says the fight agains the fire has stabilized in Fort McMurray to the point where she can visit and begin the next phase of the government’s operation to determine the extent of the damage.
Speaking to a media briefing, Notley had to pause to compose herself today when she spoke about Mother’s Day and two evacuees who were killed in a traffic accident.
Fifteen-year-old Emily Ryan and her stepmother’s nephew, Aaron Hodgson, died in the accident after the fire drove 80,000 people from the city.
Chad Morrison with Alberta Wildfire says firefighters have held the line against the fire better than they expected in Fort McMurray.
The weather is also changing with Morrison saying below seasonal temperatures will help firefighters who have been battling the blaze since last Sunday afternoon.
Morrison says the widlfire did not grow to the size that was expected on Saturday, listing it as covering an area of about 1,600 square kilometres.
“I feel very buoyed and happy that we are making great progress,” he said.
Notley says all evacuees who fled Fort McMurray to the north of the city have been successfully transported to communities south of the blaze.
As of this morning, Notley says the thousands of people who made their way out of Fort McMurray to oilsands work camps in the north were transported by road and air to communities south of the fire.
The government began moving people out of the work camps by road on Friday along Highway 63, the only road through the city.
Smoke from the fires prompted Environment Canada to issue air quality advisories for northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan. The agency says winds have spread smoke from the fires and it’s producing poor air quality and reduced visibility in some areas, especially those near the Alberta border.
Showers forecast for the area today weren’t expected to have much impact on the fire.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes the city, tweeted a picture of rain falling.
“It was only for a few minutes but the sight of rain has never been so good,” it said.
Despite the growing size of the fire, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said there are no plans to ask the army to help with firefighting.
“It’s still too early to think that it would be safe to bring in that personnel now,” he told CTV’s Question Period. “This is a beast of a fire and it needs the most professional fighters to contend with it.”
Goodale said there has been no direct damage to oil production facilities in northern Alberta.
“So, they will be in a position to get back and running relatively quickly after the danger is past,” he added.