Alberta Wildfire Update – May 8 2016

A Mountie surveys the damage on a street in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada in this May 4, 2016 image posted on social media. Courtesy Alberta RCMP/Handout via REUTERS
A Mountie surveys the damage on a street in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada in this May 4, 2016 image posted on social media. Courtesy Alberta RCMP/Handout via REUTERS
A pink car remains among the ruins of destroyed buildings after wildfires tore through the Waterways area of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada May 5, 2016. Courtesy of Brad Readman/Alberta Fire Fighters Association/Handout via REUTERS
A pink car remains among the ruins of destroyed buildings after wildfires tore through the Waterways area of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada May 5, 2016. Courtesy of Brad Readman/Alberta Fire Fighters Association/Handout via REUTERS

Fort McMurray and North Residents Evacuated

EDMONTON – WILDFIRE Update – “Our goal yesterday was to complete the evacuation of the 25,000 residents who fled to the north of Fort McMurray. I’m pleased to say we have succeeded. Thank you so much to everyone involved in all of these efforts to get people to safety,” stated Alberta Premier Motley.

Right now the current situation is seeing fires grow, and resources flooding into Alberta and Fort McMurray to fight the fire.

The RCMP in Fort McMurray report that there are still some in Fort McMurray who have either not heeded, or were unable to get out

The RCMP continues to be engaged in search and rescue operations in Fort McMurray, and can confirm that the vast majority of residents have been evacuated. Today, the RCMP is also actively involved in the escort of residents in vehicles through Fort McMurray to the south side of the City on Highway 63. These convoys led by the RCMP are going well but will continue for some time. The RCMP appreciates the patience of all of those waiting to pass from the north side of Fort McMurray on Highway 63.

RCMP patrols of the City are ongoing to locate and assist remaining residents in leaving. Police are also patrolling areas frequented by the homeless to assist them in evacuating to safety. Although preserving human life is the RCMP’s top priority, theft reports received by police will be investigated. Today, police arrested a local man in his home after responding to a break and enter. Police Dog Services were used to track and locate the suspect. This is the only theft report that police have received.

“People need to understand that evacuation orders are issued for a reason, and that not leaving puts them and emergency responders at unnecessary risk,” said RCMP Inspector Gibson Glavin.

Late yesterday, police located one elderly man in his home and lead him and his dog to safety. A family of five, including three elementary school-aged children was located during a door-to-door canvass in the Dickensfield area. The family had not complied with the mandatory evacuation order due to their belief that they were not in danger. The family and their dog were subsequently evacuated.

The RCMP is asking that evacuees concerned about pets NOT  call 911, but follow the instructions of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo by contacting the Supporters of Alberta Animal Rescues at RCMP search and rescue personnel will do what they can to assist pets they come across.

Disaster Aid Canada states, “Almost 88,000 people have been evacuated and are staying in evacuation centres; mainly in Edmonton and Calgary. Some people initially went to logging camps, but were then forced to leave due to the spread of this wildfire. Many others have stepped forward to offer their homes, hotels, university dorms and other places for families to rest.

Countless people and companies are helping the people of Fort McMurray! It is heartwarming to see the care and compassion towards people that have had to leave everything.

Impact on Oil Sands

In the longer term, the impact on Fort McMurray is yet to be seen. Suncor states, “Although the fire reached the southern end of our mine at our oil sands base operations, fire mitigation efforts were successful. We continue to monitor the situation closely and current weather conditions and forecasts indicate the fire is moving east, away from our operations”.

There has been no damage to Suncor’s assets. Suncor is beginning to implement its plan for a return to operations in the RMWB. Suncor anticipates it will commence its restart once it can do so safely and depending on the availability of critical third-party pipeline infrastructure.

“We have routinely brought down assets as part of planned maintenance and safely ramped them back up within days and we believe we can do so in these circumstances,” said Steve Williams, Suncor president and chief executive officer. “Over the weekend, several hundred people including first responders, contractors and Suncor essential personnel protected our oil sands operations. I extend my heartfelt thanks for their tireless efforts. Because of their efforts, we’re now in a position that when it is safe to restart, we can do so quickly.”

Current Alberta Situation

  • Currently there are more than 500 firefighters battling the blaze in and around Fort McMurray, along with 15 helicopters, 14 air tankers and 88 other pieces of equipment.
  • Yesterday’s plan to evacuate 25,000 residents who fled north of Fort McMurray was a success. As of 10:00am, no evacuees have been reported remaining in camps to the north.
  • 300 people from Fort McKay were evacuated to the Edmonton area by air and ground. This was a precautionary evacuation due to heavy smoke in the area.
  • 1,500 employees at the Syncrude facility were evacuated on May 7 and the facility was shut down. Groups of employees have also been evacuated from the Suncor, Husky, Shell and CNRL facilities. Many of these facilities are still operating.
  • 250 ATCO employees are in Fort McMurray working to restore the power grid and assess the gas infrastructure.
  • Alberta Agriculture and Forestry are working closely with the RCMP and SPCA in Fort McMurray to address reports from evacuees asking for help with dogs, cats and other pets left behind during the emergency evacuation. The SPCA is requesting that those with pets left behind register them online at
  • The wildfire is currently 161,000 hectares and is anticipated to grow overnight.
  • Fire conditions remain extreme, with four new starts across Alberta yesterday. A total of 34 wildfires are burning, with five out of control, 23 under control and six turned over to the responsible parties.
  • More than 1,500 firefighters, approximately 150 helicopters, 222 pieces of heavy equipment and more than 28 air tankers are fighting the fires across the province.
  • Temperature forecast for Sunday is 18°C with winds gusting up to 50 kilometres per hour. There is the potential for showers in the Fort McMurray area.

Additional updates

Emergency Financial Assistance – Debit Cards

  • $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent in emergency financial assistance will be provided to people who have been displaced.
  • This assistance is likely to be provided in the form of pre-loaded debit cards.
  • Details on when this assistance will be available and how to get access to it will be available beginning on May 11, 2016.  Government of Alberta offices will not have additional information until then. When details are available they will be posted on this page and will be available through 310-4455.
  • In order to allow for immediate distribution to people who are most urgently in need of this assistance, we’re asking evacuees who aren’t in dire need of these funds to not claim them immediately.

Evacuation information

  • There are currently 12 reception centres operating within the province. Additional details are available on the Alberta government emergency updates website:
    • Lac La Biche – The Bold Centre – 8702-91 Avenue
    • Edmonton – Northlands Grounds, Hall A – 7515-118 Avenue
    • Calgary – Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) – 1301-16 Ave NW
    • St. Paul – Centennial Recreation Centre – 4802-53 Street
    • Grassland – Community Hall –  Main Street
    • Drayton Valley – Omniplex – 5737-45 Avenue
    • Smoky Lake – 4612 – 54 Avenue
    • Fort Chipewyan Reception Centre  *For First Nation Band members only
    • Athabasca – Athabasca Agriplex – Highway 813 and RR 224
    • Beaver Lake First Nation – Cardinal Drive
    • Ambrose College – 150 Ambrose Circle SW, Calgary
    • University of Calgary – 2500 University Drive NW
  • Preliminary re-entry planning is underway, including preparing for co-ordinated damage assessments and ensuring vital emergency services and utilities are back online and operating safely. It’s important to note that there is no date for re-entry yet.
  • A fire from British Columbia has crossed 10 kilometres over the boundary and we’ve begun attacking it from the Alberta side, working with B.C. firefighters. This fire is roughly hectares within Alberta. Another fire, north of Red Earth, is 25 per cent contained and has had no significant growth. Neither is threatening any communities.
  • Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation remain under a mandatory evacuation order.
  • Albertans can stay up-to-date on wildfire-related information by calling 310-4455 in Alberta; 1-844-406-3276, and on the Alberta Emergency Alert and Alberta Wildfire apps.

Information for affected residents

  • All evacuees should register with the Red Cross – no matter where you are currently. This will help ensure you have access to the services you may need, including access to emergency financial assistance. Register:
  • 36,831 households have registered with the Red Cross.
  • Family members and evacuees trying to reunite can also contact the Red Cross. *Due to high call volumes, you may not be able to reach someone right away.
  • If documents, such as driver’s licences or ID cards, were left behind during the evacuation, new cards can be issued free of charge at a registry agent. A list of registry locations can be found at the Service Alberta website at

Health-related information

  • To get a replacement Health Care Insurance Card at no cost, you can contact us at 780-427-1432 or toll free at 310-0000 and then 780-427-1432 when prompted. Your Alberta Personal Health Card can be mailed to a temporary address.
  • Breastfeeding mothers can get support from the Canadian Lactation Consultant Association. Services include triage for moms and babies, breastfeeding tents, lactation consultation, and education for new mothers on what to expect in emergency disaster situations. Contact 1-800-272-9756 or
  • Mental health support is available by calling Alberta’s 24-hour Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
  • AHS has mental health staff at the evacuation/reception centres in Lac La Biche, Northlands (Edmonton), SAIT, University of Calgary, Ambrose University (Calgary), St. Paul, and Suncor Firebag site north of Fort McMurray.
    • For resources in your areas, please call Health Link Toll-free by dialing 811 or call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642.
  • Alberta Health Services has issued a boil-water advisory for the area of Fort McMurray including Anzac, Conklin, Gregoire Lake Provincial Park, Janvier, and nearby work camps that pull water from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Water Treatment Plant, as a precautionary measure.
  • Area camps that get water from EPCOR, or any provider other than the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, are not affected and do not need to boil water, at this time.
    • Please Note: Fort McKay residents do not need to boil water. This boil-water advisory excludes Fort McKay. About 200 vulnerable residents have been evacuated from the community.
  • Alberta Health Services has issued an air-quality advisory for the Fort McMurray area, as well as a precautionary advisory for communities in the North Zone due to wildfires; residents are advised to take appropriate precautions. Real-time air-quality data and information is available at

Information for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12

  • Students displaced from Fort McMurray and surrounding communities are encouraged to register in a school to continue their studies. For further information, please contact
  • Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) for Grades 6 and 9 have been cancelled for students in the Fort McMurray Public School District, Fort McMurray Roman Catholic School District, Anzac and Fort McKay schools within Northland School Division, and École Boréal within Greater North Central Francophone Education Region (Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord).  Any student who wishes to take their PAT exam can do so in the school where they have registered.
  • Alberta Education will provide an update on the status of June diploma exams for students within affected school authorities as soon as information becomes available.

Information for post-secondary students

  • Keyano College’s Clearwater and Industrial campuses are closed until further notice. Please check the Keyano website for the most up-to-date information.
  • Apprentices or journeypersons from the Fort McMurray area who have questions should call the Apprenticeship and Industry Training Information line at 1-800-248-4823, Monday through Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or visit
  • Post-secondary students with questions about Alberta student loans can call 1-855-606-2096, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Alberta Culture and Tourism information

  • People displaced by the wildfires are invited to take time with family and friends with free regular admission to any of Alberta’s 17 provincially owned and operated historic sites and museums. Just present your photo ID or provide your postal code visit

Services for affected residents

  • Residents receiving benefits from the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) who are affected by the wildfire in Fort McMurray are advised to call the Athabasca AISH office at 780-675-6853 during regular office hours or visit Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH). After hours, evacuees can call the 24-hour Income Support Contact Centre at 1-866-644-5135 (then press 1) or within Edmonton call 780-644-5135.
  • For information on child intervention and child care, Fort McMurray and area residents may contact 1-800-638-0715.
  • For Family Support for Children with Disabilities, Fort McMurray and area residents may contact 780-427-2551 (toll free in Alberta, dial 310-0000).
  • Information on emergency benefits for eligible Albertans in need is here Emergency benefits to eligible Albertans in need.
  • Affected Alberta Works clients receiving benefits from the Alberta Works Income Support program are advised to call the Cold Lake Alberta Works Centre at 780-594-1984 (toll free at 310-0000 then 780-594-1984) during regular office hours. After hours, evacuees can call the 24-hour Income Support Contact Centre at 1-866-644-5135 (then press 1) or within Edmonton call 780-644-5135.
  • Clients can also send an email to to find out how to receive benefits.
  • If persons with developmental disabilities, their families or contracted service providers need human, financial, or in-kind assistance to connect with loved ones, find accommodations or provide assistance to individuals receiving PDD supports, please contact the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Program Branch at 780-427-1177 ext#3 or as an alternate Disability Services at 780-415-2466 or visit Persons with Developmental Disabilities.
  • For additional information on social benefits, affected individuals can contact Alberta Supports at 1-877-644-9992.
  • Support for LGBTQ2S evacuees is available through The Pride Centre of Edmonton. Drop-in Monday and Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Road closures

At present, travel on Highway 63 and Highway 881 is still restricted.

Traffic control points are currently in effect at:

  • Hwy 63/881 Junction.
    • Southbound traffic from Fort McMurray is allowed. Only emergency responders and disaster relief efforts are being allowed to travel north of the junction.
  • Hwy 63/Parsons Creek Interchange (north end Fort McMurray).
    • RCMP are controlling all southbound traffic.
  • Highway 881 is closed between the Highway 63 junction and Conklin due to wildfire.
  • Southbound travel from the Hwy 63/881 junction can only travel down Highway 63.
  • There are also information points in place at Highway 63/55 and Highway 881/858.
  • Only emergency responders and people involved in disaster relief efforts are being allowed into Fort McMurray.

Donations and volunteers

  • Anyone who wants to help with a donation can contact the Canadian Red Cross at or 1-800-418-1111.
  • The Municipal District of Wood Buffalo is not accepting donations at this time.
  • Economic Development and Trade is coordinating donations from international sources and has been in contact with several foreign embassies regarding the status of their citizens in the impacted areas. International citizens impacted by the evacuations are encouraged to register with their home embassy.
Previous articleManitoba Wildfires Driven by Winds – May 8 2016
Next articleOntario Regional Chief Day Encouraged After Child Welfare Meeting or NNL offers news, information, opinions and positive ideas for Thunder Bay, Ontario, Northwestern Ontario and the world. NNL covers a large region of Ontario, but we are also widely read around the country and the world. To reach us by email: Reach the Newsroom: (807) 355-1862