Fort McMurray under evacuation alert due to out-of-control wildfire nearby

Fort McMurray under alert

An evacuation alert was issued in Alberta for Fort McMurray on Friday evening as an out-of-control wildfire burned nearby.

Residents in the northern oilsands hub and the nearby community of Saprae Creek were told to be ready to leave on short notice.

Jody Butz, regional fire chief and director of emergency management for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, said in a video update posted on Facebook late Friday that the two communities were not at risk and winds were pushing the wildfire away from Fort McMurray, he said.

Officials said the fire was 16 kilometres southwest of Fort McMurray as of 9 p.m. local time. 

Alberta Wildfire said in the late afternoon that the wildfire was about two square kilometres in size, but by early evening that had grown to 10 square kilometres.

Butz said in the video update that fire behaviour had dropped with lower temperatures, and the spread was expected to slow as temperatures dropped further overnight.

"We expect things to look better tomorrow morning," he said.

Alberta Wildfire said four crews of wildland firefighters, three helicopters and airtankers were fighting the fire, to be joined by night-vision helicopters overnight.

Fort McMurray has a population of about 68,000. A wildfire there in 2016 destroyed roughly 2,400 homes. 

Later Friday, the County of Grande Prairie issued an evacuation order for an area roughly 50 kilometres northeast of the city of the same name.

Alberta Wildfire estimated an out-of-control blaze there to be about 0.4 square kilometres in size. It said the the fire was about four kilometres east of the hamlet of Teepee Creek and burning away from the community.

Evacuees were told to register at the Pomeroy Hotel and Conference Centre in the city of Grande Prairie.

Just after midnight on Saturday, an evacuation order was also issued in the MD of Greenview Number 16, northeast of Grande Prairie.

The wildfire is burning north of Highway 43 and has jumped the Smokey River.

Everyone living in the North Goodwin area west of Range Road 21 and between Township Roads 741 and 734 is required to evacuate.

A evacuation centre has been set up in Valleyview, a town about an hour east of Grande Prairie.

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