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Wildfire that forced thousands to flee Fort McMurray ‘continues to be very active’: officials

A threatening wildfire that triggered an evacuation order for parts of Fort McMurray, Alta., on Tuesday afternoon “continues to be very active,” according to local officials.

In an update posted to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s website at 8 p.m. local time on Tuesday, officials said “MWF-017 remains out of control at 20,940 hectares.”

In all, about 6,600 residents from the southern part of Fort McMurray, a community of about 68,000 people, have been forced to leave their homes. The rest of Fort McMurray and a number of surrounding communities remain on an evacuation alert.

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Premier Danielle Smith is scheduled to hold a news conference in Edmonton at 10:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday to provide an update on the situation.

Smith will be joined by Forestry and Parks Minister Todd Loewen, Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis, Alberta Wildfire information unit manager Christie Tucker and Alberta Emergency Management Agency managing director Stephen Lacroix. Global News plans to livestream that news conference and it can be viewed in this post.

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Another news conference is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. local time where Wood Buffalo Mayor Sandy Bowman will speak along with several emergency officials.

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In an update posted to social media at about 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday, RMWB officials noted that the fire had moved so that it was situated about 4.5 kilometres from the intersection of Highway 63 and Highway 881 and that it was about 5.5 kilometres away from a landfill site in the area.

“Overnight aerial operations continued until 3 a.m. with night vision-equipped aircraft, one aircraft dropping 26,153 gallons and the other dropping 90,000 gallons,” RMWB officials said.

“Ground operations continued building a containment line from the landfill prioritizing the eastern fire flank. This fire line construction will continue as a 24-hour operation to complete the containment line.”

According to the RMWB, the weather forecast for the Fort McMurray suggests that the temperature will reach a high of about 17 C and that there was a 30 per cent chance of rain. There was also the risk of a thunderstorm.

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“Winds are expected to be out of the north with speeds of approximately 10 km/h, and relative humidity will reach 30 per cent,” officials said.

Officials noted a weather station near the fire recorded 0.3 mm of precipitation on Tuesday night.

“Precipitation values of 0.6 mm or more is required to reduce fire behaviour, so the minimal precipitation received will have little impact on the overall fire behaviour,” they said.

“Fire behaviour will be subdued in the morning, with an inversion layer holding the smoke layer close to the ground. This inversion will likely break by noon, and the sun will dry out the fuels that received that precipitation and will be available to burn again this afternoon.”

The RMWB declared a state of local emergency Tuesday so that it can access more resources through the Emergency Management Act.

For the latest information on which areas in Alberta are under an evacuation alert or order due to a wildfire, visit the Alberta Emergency Alert website.

For the latest information on the wildfire status and danger across the province, visit the Alberta Wildfire website.

The latest information on fire advisories, restrictions and bans across the province can be found on the Alberta fire bans website.

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More to come…

Click to play video: 'Anxious wildfire evacuees ‘waiting and waiting’ as flames inch closer to homes'

Anxious wildfire evacuees ‘waiting and waiting’ as flames inch closer to homes

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