There are new fears the Alberta wildfires could double in size today and reach the boundary of Saskatchewan.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says firefighters continue working to protect the downtown and homes in Fort McMurray and held the line for a second straight day.
She says the gas supply has been turned off in the city and the power grid has been damaged.
Water in the city isn’t drinkable and hazardous material will have to be cleaned up before residents can return, although the government has begun preliminary planning for people to return.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale updated the media this morning, saying the Alberta wildfires spread to 1,500 square kilometres.
— Jon Meyer (@jonmeyer_980) May 7, 2016
Goodale says they have had some relief in terms of reinforcements but he says the call is still out for more replacement firefighters.
Much of downtown, including the hospital, water treatment plant, and the airport avoided major damage from the fire yesterday, and remain mostly intact. Notley says firefighters are doing their best to save residential areas.
“We’ve been able to hold the line for the most part in those residential areas. We’ve all seen the heartbreaking images taken by citizens traveling through Fort McMurray today, and there is no doubt that the damage is extensive, and will take many months to repair.”
— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) May 7, 2016
“Fort McMurray not safe to return to.”
At this point, Notley says that Fort McMurray is not safe to return t,o and the RCMP will be at checkpoints preventing people from returning.
There are convoys of vehicles attempting to head south.
Notley says 15,000 people are still being evacuated from northern camps, with convoys continuing to escort people through the fire zone, and about 1,500 were to be taken by plane Friday.
She also announced the Alberta government will be distributing supportive funds to displaced citizens
“Cabinet today authorized the government to provide emergency financial assistance to people who have been displaced. We will provide $1250 per adult and $500 per dependent. We will provide this assistance to approximately 80,000 people”
The money is expected to come next week, and will cost the government approximately $100 million.
What’s next for the wildfire
Chad Morrison with Alberta Wildfire says the winds are pushing the fire Southeast and has now passed Anzac. Winds are expected to push the fire over next two days and it will probably move into Clearwater Valley.
There’s also a possibility of extreme fire behaviors due to the wind, says Morrison.
Rock 97 DJ and technician get Fort McMurray radio station back on air
One of those who has been able to return to Fort McMurray is “Rock 97” DJ Chris Byrne, who has been trying to get his station back on air most of this week.
Byrne spoke with Drex last night about his experience driving through Fort McMurray.
“Driving through downtown was like the set of the Walking Dead.”
He says there’s no one on the streets, and the initial evacuation centre on McDonald Island is not home base for all of the First Responders, and wildfire crews.
“It’s safe enough downtown that that’s where they are.”
Ffirefighters had been trying to stave off the flames downtown as recently as yesterday.
“Across the Clearwater River the fire was jumping into the downtown, the firefighters that we met were leaving to fuight the fires that were downtown.”
LISTEN the full interview here:
At one point Byrne and his station technician were stopped at a checkpoint, where RCMP wanted to ensure they had proper supplies such as water and food for a couple of days, and proper respirators.
He says everything is standing at the station, and its a relief to have the station back on the air.
He says the station will be providing community information, and not just music.
“We’re going to be a bullewtin board…we’ll do the Buy and Sell ads, we’ll do obituaries.”
He says he knows it’s possibly months away from being able to welcome people back.
“I’m looking at the wildfire smoke and its massive and its right above us, and its crazy…We’re in for a long haul.”