In just two days, the voluntary Zone 1 re-entry to Fort McMurray is set to begin.
Still, firefighters say the city is not yet in the clear from the nearby wildfire. Edmonton Fire Chief Ken Block says one of the big fears is the 20-20 crossover–a situation where the humidity falls to 20% and the temperature rises to 20 degrees or higher. “You’ve got some deep-seated embers in the forest floor and when that relative humidity and the temperature kind of cross over at that mark, if there’s any wind at all, you start to get open flame and that’s happening with a fair bit of regularity.”
Other issues residents will face are air quality warnings and a boil-water advisory. Residents are also being reminded to bring extra supplies, such as groceries and medication.
Chief Block says his crews will remain in Fort Mac, to help oversee re-entry, and will be on standby in case fires break out as power is reactivated. “We’re on the ground up there now, we’re more than prepared to stay as long as they need us. If they make a decision at the last moment that they need another week of support we’re there, we’re good with that. It’s a matter of changing out our crews out again.”
Chief Block adds when Fort McMurray is ready and no longer requires assistance, the crews will be ready to either bring equipment back home, or send for a new group to take equipment back.
Meanwhile firefighting efforts in Fort McMurray are about to get a boost from crews from South Africa. Sunday night night 300 firefighters from Johannesburg arrived at Edmonton International.
A number of the firefighters were already in Alberta last year battling wildfires, and are happy to be back. The South African crews admit it’s quite different fighting fires in Canada, but the firefighters learn from each other.
This crew will be in Fort McMurray for two weeks, and then official will re-evaluate whether they should stay longer.
Suncor says it expects to restore more of its oilsands production by the end of this week.
The company says start up activities have begun at its oilsands base plant north of Fort McMurray and it also expects its MacKay River extraction site will be producing by the end of this week.
Suncor says it has moved more than 4,000 employees and contractors back into the region and an additional 3,500 people working for Suncor will return this week to support its operations.