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Alberta wildfire updated May 6, 2016

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Compiled by Shari Narine







MNA opens local office to Métis impacted by Fort McMurray fire

Photo: Rupertsland Institute, a Métis Nation of Alberta affiliate, has been providing outreach services since Tuesday as the mobile van has delivered food, water, toiletries and other essentials to evacuees in Lac la Biche.
(Photo: Métis Nation of Alberta)

May 6, 2016. The Métis Nation of Alberta will open its doors Saturday at 1 p.m. to all Métis citizens affected by wildfires to offer triage and support services to Métis citizens in the weeks going forward. The MNA does not have resources to support emergency relief services at this time. “The recent scourge of wildfire has resulted in devastating loss for many of our citizens. We must work together to ensure the welfare of our people during this difficult time,” said MNA President Audrey Poitras. The MNA has established two new communications lines in order to hear from Metis citizens and get direction as to interim help needed and to develop a comprehensive forest fire contingency plan moving forward. The toll-free line is 1-866-839-6312.




Enoch Cree Nation offers free gas


May 6, 2016. The North on 60 gas bar, owned by the Enoch Cree Nation, is offering a free tank of gas to residents fleeing fire-ravaged Fort McMurray. Manager Valerie Alexander said the gas station started offering free gas to all evacuees – not only First Nations evacuees - on Thursday after she watched the devastation caused by the wildfire on the news and after hearing stories of people fleeing, sometimes with just the clothes on their backs. She said she spoke to Enoch Chief William Morin, who immediately agreed to the idea of offering free fuel to evacuees. Alexander said the gas bar will continue offering free tanks of fuel over the weekend to anybody showing proof of living in Fort McMurray.



Convoy of evacuees begin trek south from points north of Fort McMurray


May 6, 2016. The first convoy of 50 vehicles of evacuees is traveling south on Highway 63 from northern points past Fort McMurray this morning.

The Unified Command of the Emergency Operations Centre in Fort McMurray gave the go ahead early this morning and RCMP began escorting the first group of vehicles at 6 a.m. through Fort McMurray. RCMP will stay with the convoy until 20 km south of Fort McMurray. Officials are hoping to move 1,500 vehicles in this manner throughout the day.

Ground evacuation had been planned to begin on Thursday but conditions were deemed not safe.

“The issue … was wild fire was jumping in some areas, but it was primarily smoke, heavy smoke, and we did not want people being overcome as they were going through. So again, safety (is) paramount. We decided to hold it off,” said Scott Long, executive director operations with Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

Read more: http://www.ammsa.com/publications/alberta-sweetgrass/convoy-evacuees-begin-trek-south-points-north-fort-mcmurray



Province-wide fire ban in effect.

Effective May 5, 2016 at 6:00 p.m., the province is applying a full fire ban to most areas in Alberta. The fire ban expands the fire restriction that was enacted on May 3 in the Forest Protection Area.

“Our firefighters are currently focused on fighting wildfires across the province, including the estimated 85,000 hectare fire near Fort McMurray. With extreme wildfire hazard conditions continuing to persist, it is prudent that we take this step to help reduce the risk of additional fires.”  Rachel Notley, Premier of Alberta

All open fires, including campfires and charcoal briquettes, are prohibited. The use of incendiary targets is also banned.

Portable propane fire pits and gas or propane stoves and barbeques designed for cooking or heating are allowed.

The fire ban applies to Alberta’s Forest Protection Area and all counties, municipal districts and special areas, and provincial parks and recreation areas. The fire ban does not apply to cities, towns, villages, summer villages, or federal lands, such as national parks.


Métis landmark in Fort McMurray burns to the ground

May 5, 2016. The sole remaining Métis trapper’s cabin in downtown Fort McMurray has burned to the ground.

“Harvey was just able to grab a few papers. The fire was coming down the hill so they had to take off,” said Bill Loutitt, vice-president for the McMurray Métis local. “There’s nothing left.”

Owner Harvey Sykes was stranded in Draper one night and had to be airlifted out by a helicopter the next day, says Loutitt. Sykes was initially taken to Anzac. However, in the early morning hours of Thursday, evacuees from Anzac had to be transported further south due to the encroaching wildfire.

“It’s a loss, but the biggest thing is there’s no life lost,” said Loutitt.

Read more: http://www.ammsa.com/publications/alberta-sweetgrass/metis-landmark-fort-mcmurray-burns-ground


Evacuation order south of High Level to be liftedat noon


May 5, 2016. Residents south of High Level will soon be able to return home. The evacuation order for the will be lifted effective 12 noon Thursday. Residents, however, are asked to remain on “immediate alert” in case the situation changes due to the expected weather conditions. Alberta Forestry as listing the fire as being held at this time. Residents between Bushe reserve and Highway 35 were forced to evacuate late Wednesday afternoon because of a fire that broke out in the Norbord yard, at the forest product mill. There has been no damage to the homes. The Bushe River Reserve was under an evacuation alert because of that fire.



Boil water advisory issued for Wood Buffalo area


May 5, 2016. Due to the wildfire situation in Fort McMurray, Alberta Health Services has issued a boil water advisory for the area of Fort McMurray including Anzac, Conklin, Gregoire Lake Provincial Park, Janvier, Fort McKay and nearby work camps that pull water from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo water treatment plant. The boil water advisory is a precautionary measure. Area camps that get water from EPCOR, or a provider other than the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, are not impacted and do not need to boil water, at this time. Instead of boiling water, residents may choose to purchase bottled water for consumption, for the duration of this advisory. Alberta Health Services says the advisory will remain in effect until further notice.




Further evacuation south of Fort McMurray

May 5, 2016. Changing weather patterns forced the evacuation of the Fort McMurray First Nation, Anzac and Gregoire Lake Estates in the early morning hours Thursday. Anzac recreational centre had been set up as an evacuation centre, people moved there from the evacuation centre on Macdonald Island the day before. The approximately 700 residents of Fort McMurray First Nation had been aware of a possible evacuation since Tuesday when the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, started evacuating. The newest evacuees were bussed to Lac La Biche or Edmonton. The regional emergency operations centre, which had been located in Anzac, was moved to Lac La Biche. An early morning count on Wednesday had more than 1,600 homes and buildings destroyed in Fort McMurray. About 250 firefighters, aided by 12 helicopters and 17 air tankers, fought flames on several fronts in and around the city. The fire is estimated at 10,000 hectares. Late yesterday afternoon, the province declared a provincial state of emergency, allowing Alberta to access federal funding and more equipment and manpower from across the country. The majority of the 88,000 people, who left Fort McMurray, sought refuge in Edmonton. However, those heading north are being helped by Fort McKay First Nation and Metis communities.



Forest product mill fire has Bushe River Reserve under evacuation alert


May 5, 2016. The Bushe River Reserve is under an evacuation alert due to an out-of-control fire at a forest product mill. The Norbord yard fire forced the evacuation of an area south of High Level between Bushe reserve and Highway 35 with a mandatory evacuation order issued late Wednesday afternoon. The High Level fire department as well as Agriculture and Forestry firefighters are on scene. A reception centre has been set up in the Town of High Level. Evacuees are to to register at the office and receive further instruction. Norbord is an international company with a plant in High Level that manufactures Oriented Strand Board.



Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation residents allowed to return home


May 5, 2016. An evacuation order was lifted late Wednesday evening allowing about 250 residents on the Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation and the hamlet of Glenevis to return to their homes. About 55 residences were evacuated. A wildfire burning out of control on the First Nation prompted a mandatory evacuation for the areas late yesterday afternoon. Evacuees went to the Cherhill Community Centre, By 9:30 p.m. officials lifted the alert. Chief Tony Alexis said residents were allowed to return to their homes except for those who had their power and gas cut off during the firefighting efforts. Troy Dufort, deputy fire chief for Lac Ste Anne County, said there were no injuries or fatalities from the fire. Only one home had been hit and the residence was saved. More than 100 firefighters, including Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation fire department, and 30 apparatus from neighbouring firefighting departments assisted in putting out the blaze. At one point, the fire was estimated to be between 100 and 130 hectares.