Wildfire smoke could close Highway 63, evacuation alert expands to Anzac area

Highway 881 not expected to be impacted. Evacuation warning now covers Anzac, Fort McMurray, Fort McMurray First Nation, Gregoire Lake Estates, Saprae Creek and Rickards Landing Industrial Park.

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The wildfire evacuation warning that began Friday evening now includes Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation and Rickards Landing Industrial Park. Fort McMurray and Saprae Creek Estates are still under notice.

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The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) anticipates wildfire smoke south of Fort McMurray could become so thick that Highway 63 will be closed temporarily. Any closure of Highway 63 would start south of the junction of Highways 63 and 881. The RMWB does not believe Highway 881 will be impacted by any closures.

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The wildfire behind the evacuation warning, MWF-017, is 16 kilometres southwest of Fort McMurray on the south side of the Athabasca River valley. It is roughly 19 kilometres west and 10 kilometres north of Highway 63.

Wind is pushing the wildfire southeast and away from Fort McMurray, but towards the Anzac area. It is 1,992 hectares in size as of 6 p.m., growing 900 hectares since an 8:30 a.m. update.

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Nine helicopters are attacking the wildfire from the air and are supported by water bombing aircraft. Four wildland firefighting crews and a unit crew are battling the fire on the ground. Heavy equipment is also being used to build guards.

Other nearby wildfires held, Bowman urges calm

A second wildfire, MWF-022, was spotted south of Anzac before 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Firefighters were able to quickly stop it from spreading and Alberta Wildfire considers it under control. Wildfire Information Officer Melissa Story says the expanded evacuation warning is because of MWF-017.

Two wildfires burning west of Fort McMurray and closer to the city are no longer growing. Alberta Wildfire considers them held. Mayor Sandy Bowman says people should still be prepared for a potential evacuation.

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“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.

“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.”

MWF-017 was 25 kilometres away and 200 hectares when an evacuation warning was sent on Friday shortly before 7 p.m. The RMWB says helicopter pilots equipped with night vision continued fighting the fire during the night.

“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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