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Wild fire claims structures in Anzac

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By Shari Narine Sweetgrass Contributing Editor EDMONTON







May 6, 2016.

The wild fires that forced the evacuation of Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation in the early morning hours of Thursday, has caused more structural damage.

“We’ve got more information on Anzac and currently we understand the fire did breach the community late last night and while most of the community remains intact, about 18-20 structures have been potentially lost,” said Chad Morrison, senior manager with Alberta Wildfire Prevention.

“There are some hotspots coming up this afternoon in the downtown area (of Fort McMurray) and firefighters continue to work on them as the fire behaviour continues to challenge firefighters today,” said Morrison.

There are 490 firefighters on the ground, both in the community and in the forested areas battling the fires. There are also 11 helicopters, 12 pieces of heavy equipment, and 16 air tankers. Eighty-three firefighters from Ontario arrived today as well as four air tankers from Quebec and one air tanker from the Northwest Territories. The NWT air tanker will replace the one damaged at the Manning airport yesterday. In total, there are 27 air tankers available to work the fires.

“We have substantially extreme fire conditions in front of us still for the next two days,” said Morrison. While today’s temperatures are cooler and the wind is pushing the fire to the northeast and into the forested areas, tomorrow’s forecast is for 27 degrees Celsius. Morrison says there is potential for the fire to double in size by the end of the day Saturday.

Right now the fire covers 101,000 hectares.

Meanwhile, ground evacuation of residents who sought refuge north of Fort McMurray was delayed for about an hour early this afternoon when smoke reduced visibility. About 1,200 vehicles have moved south in a number of convoys, escorted by the RCMP.

“The reality is that we want to keep Highway 63 open and flowing for as long as we can,” said  Scott Long, executive director operations with Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

The goal today was to evacuate 5,500 through the air, leaving 4,000 people to fly out tomorrow.

“Great progress is being made on evacuees moving from the north through the air and on the ground,” said Long.

About 25,000 residents evacuated north of Fort McMurray. In total, approximately 80,000 residents were evacuated on Tuesday, the majority heading south.