Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Fire-ravaged Alberta to be visited by Premier

Published:Monday | May 9, 2016 | 3:18 PM
Flames flare up from hotspots from a wildfire along a highway to Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada yesterday.

Alberta's premier is to get a first look at the devastation in Canada's oil sands town of Fort McMurray today after cold temperatures and light rain stabilised the massive wildfire to a point where officials could begin the next phase of a plan to get residents back into the oil sands town.

The break in the weather has officials optimistic they've reached a turning point on getting a handle on the massive wildfire. The temperature dipped to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) today following a week where the region had unseasonably warm temperatures.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the battle against the fire has stabilised to the point where she and the mayor will tour Fort McMurray's fire-ravaged neighborhoods.

"There will be some dramatic images coming from media over the next couple of days," Notley said. "I want to reiterate mental health supports are available for anyone who needs help."

More than 80,000 people have left Fort McMurray, where the fire has burned 1,600 homes and other buildings in the heart of Canada's oil sands region.

Gas has been turned off, the power grid is damaged and water is undrinkable. More than 250 power company workers are trying to restore the grid and assess the gas infrastructure.

"We are now turning our minds more and more to the recovery effort," Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said.

"This is going to be a long term endeavor because at the moment there is no power and gas, no palatable watery supply. There's dangerous hazardous material all over the place. It's going to take a very careful, thoughtful effort to get that community back in a livable condition," Goodale said.

There is no timeline to return evacuees, but the provincial government sent in a team today to do preliminary planning.