Wildfire south of Fort McMurray grew on Monday, Fort Chipewyan wildfire held

There are 45 wildfires burning across Alberta. Between Friday morning and Sunday evening, 18 new wildfires started.

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The wildfire burning southwest of Fort McMurray grew west and northeast on Monday, but it’s assessed size will be published Tuesday morning. The last update on the wildfire, which is being called MWF-017, was that it was 6,572 hectares and 16 kilometres southwest of the city as of 9:30 a.m. The cause is still being investigated.

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Two helicopters equipped with night vision will battle the wildfire overnight with their water buckets. Alberta Wildfire spokesperson Christie Tucker hopes scattered showers, and cooler and wetter overnight conditions will slow the wildfire.

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An evacuation warning is still active for people in Fort McMurray, Anzac, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation, Gregoire Lake Estates, Saprae Creek Estates and Rickards Landing Industrial Park. The causes of these wildfires are still being investigated.

Wildfire conditions in most of Alberta’s north range from high to extreme risk. Tucker says there are 45 wildfires burning across the province. Between Friday morning and Sunday evening, 18 new wildfires sparked across Alberta.

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A team of 46 firefighters and 13 helicopters attacked the wildfire throughout the day. Airtankers also dropped water on the active edges of the fire. They were challenged by shifting winds and a lack of humidity. Heavy equipment built and maintained guards on the fire’s northeast.

Fort McMurray’s public and Catholic schools are open, but provincial assessment tests scheduled for this week have been postponed. Sprinklers have been installed at the Rickards Landing Industrial Park and Gregoire Lake Estates. They will be installed on the Fort McMurray 468 First Nation if needed.

A wildfire burns north of Fort Chipewyan on May 13, 2024. Image by Alberta Wildfire

A wildfire burning nine kilometres north of Fort Chipewyan and 1.7 kilometres from the Allison Bay reserve is no longer spreading and is considered held. The wildfire, which was called MWF-023, started on the far side of an existing guard on Monday morning. It was fought by four helicopters and 22 wildland firefighters. The cause is being investigated.

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Crews fighting wildfires in the Fort Chipewyan area this summer will have extra equipment flown into the community if needed. Alberta Wildfire has used barges to bring equipment into the community in past years, but low water levels in Lake Athabasca and the Athabasca River has grounded barges.

“Aircraft is one of the most reliable ways we have of moving firefighters and smaller scale equipment around to those remote areas and we will continue to use aircraft primarily,” said Tucker.

A wildfire forced roughly 1,000 people to leave the Fort Chipewyan area last year. The fire never entered the community, although some cabins were destroyed.

Province warns people to stop flying drones near wildfires

Emergency officials have already heard reports of people flying drones near wildfires this year, said Tucker. Regional Fire Chief Jody Butz also warned people on Friday that flying drones near wildfires is illegal, and stops helicopters and airtankers.

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“If you fly a drone over or near a wildfire you could be endangering firefighters and you could cause firefighting operations to stop. Let us do our job and fight Alberta’s wildfires safely,” said Tucker. “If people are identified for flying drones and they are found to be interfering with our firefighting, action can be taken legally.”

The municipality advises people to:  

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