Wildfire puts Fort McMurray, Saprae Creek Estates on evacuation alert

“The fire is moving east, driven by strong winds, and is showing extreme fire behaviour,” according to Alberta Wildfire

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People in Fort McMurray and Saprae Creek Estates have been told to prepare for an evacuation as a wildfire burns out of control near the community. For now, no community has been ordered to evacuate.

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The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo issued the alert shortly before 7 p.m. as a wildfire burned out of control 25 kilometres southwest of Fort McMurray. By 9 p.m., the fire was 16 kilometres southwest of Fort McMurray and 1,000 hectares in size. The next update from Alberta Wildfire will be at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

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“At this time, these communities are not at risk and we are using abundance of caution to ensure residents are prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice,” said Regional Fire Chief Jody Butz in a video posted to the RMWB’s social media accounts. “We expect things to look better tomorrow morning.”

Alberta Wildfire has deployed four crews of wildland firefighters, three helicopters and airtankers to attack the wildfire. Three helicopters equipped with night vision will work on the wildfire overnight.

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Even before an alert was issued, people had started rushing to gas stations and grocery stores across Fort McMurray as smoke could be seen in many parts of the city. Those lines spilled onto the streets after an evacuation alert was sent to every smart phone in the city. Staff at some locations went outside to control the lineups.

Staff at an Esso Gas station in Fort McMurray control traffic after Fort McMurray and Saprae Creek Estates were told to prepare for a possible evacuation as a wildfire burns 25 kilometres away in May 10, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Staff at an Esso Gas station in Fort McMurray control traffic after Fort McMurray and Saprae Creek Estates were told to prepare for a possible evacuation as a wildfire burns 25 kilometres away in May 10, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Matt Dekker, who moved to Fort McMurray from Calgary this past fall, said he “saw some of the worst behaviour out there” as he was driving home. He said his girlfriend called the lineups at gas stations “a zoo.” Dekker missed the 2016 Horse River Wildfire, but he is going to Calgary with his girlfriend to be safe.

“Whatever happens, happens. I’m pretty calm, for the most part,” said Dekker. “If something does happen, I just want everyone to get out. I’m not tied down to the material things, it’s the people.”

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Cole Norman lost his home in the Wood Buffalo neighbourhood in 2016. However, he was calm as he walked his girlfriend, Sara Guzman, home.

“The best thing to do is not to panic because that will send everyone else into a panic,” said Norman. “Last time we didn’t know how to prepare but now we know what we should do and what steps to prepare for beforehand.”

Guzman, who did not lose her home in 2016, said her parents are ready to grab important documents in case they have to leave home. She was on her way home to pack.

“People know what to expect now. I guess panic can still set in for some people, but at least people are not too uncertain about what to do if there’s an evacuation,” said Guzman.

wildfire
Smoke from a wildfire burning 16 kilometres southwest of Fort McMurray, as seen from Real Martin Drive, on May 10, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

The municipality advises people to:  

  • Follow rmwb.ca/alerts for evacuation information
  • Be aware and stay informed by following official and trusted channels such as alberta.ca/wildfire-status
  • Download the Alberta Emergency Alerts App
  • Follow local media sources
  • Arrange with neighbours to advise one another of an emergency notification
  • Prepare an emergency kit for your household
  • Make an emergency plan for your household

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