Officials monitoring the wildfire in northern Alberta reported a significant achievement Friday, which opened the door for them to nearly double up their fire fighting efforts.
“The fire has seen no growth at this time and the fire size is just over 500,000 hectares,” said Chad Morrison of Alberta Wildfire. “As every day goes by, we continue to run this thing down,” Morrison said. “If we get a little help from Mother Nature, we’ll take it.”
Three days of rain are in the forecast, even though so far Fort McMurray has seen only trace amounts, of 1-2 mm.
“We expect to hold this fire over the weekend especially given the cooler temperatures,” Morrison told a news conference. “Even if we don’t get rain the firefighters and our resources out there are making great progress so these are great fire fighting days for us.”
That means they’ll increase the platoon of firefighters from the 1,100 they’ve got now over the next two weeks because they’re beginning to get a foothold on the line, and can safely deploy more ‘boots on the ground’.
“Obviously we want to make sure we’re putting them in the right spots because there’s still extreme fire conditions in spots if we get some hot dry weather over the coming weeks. But as we continue to make progress and safe places for them to work with our tankers and helicopters and our (bull)dozers we can get more of those boots on the ground to extinguish it and contain the perimeter that’s spread. So that’s the long term plan, an additional 500 next week, and then 500 the following week after that.”
These additional 1,000 will come from other parts of Canada. Once that resource is exhausted, Morrison said the plan is to expand the borders. “From there, of those resources are exhausted, we’ll work through our international partnerships and agreements to bring those certified qualified highly trained experienced firefighters from other jurisdictions that are used to working with these types of extreme fire conditions and they’ll be effective tools for us long term.”
Air quality in Fort McMurray has improved, and should settle in at a moderate six on the scale said medical officer of health Dr. Karen Grimsrud. “In Edmonton the air quality index nearly reached ten late (Thursday) afternoon but the rain has helped significantly improving the air quality through the night and it is now at one.”
However she cautioned that the levels could wildly fluctuate some more so those who want to return to Fort McMurray should monitor the situation. Air quality is one of the five conditions Premier Rachel Notley announced when setting the tentative June 1 re-entry.