Last week, as a reminder that the situation is still dangerous in the area surrounding the Alberta wildfires, workers at camps located north of Fort McMurray were moved out of the area as part of a precautionary evacuation. As high winds whipped through the area, where extremely dry conditions persist.
While the fire was still more than 20 kilometres away from the camps when the evacuation of non-essential personnel was undertaken last Monday, the extreme caution was taken because the heavy smoke continues to make it difficult to fly in some spots and because the extreme behaviour of the fire makes it very difficult to predict. As at least one expert suggested that no matter what firefighters do and how many tankers you put out in front of it, Mother Nature will continue to move the fire in the direction it wants to go.
In all, about 4,000 workers were evacuated from a dozen or so large work camps in the area, while another 500 or so were evacuated from other smaller camps scattered throughout the area. According to witnesses, the evacuations were very orderly and there was no panic on the part of anyone. At the time, according to officials with the Rural Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the fire was moving nearly 40 metres per minute and was expected to burn six kilometres in two hours.
The entire population of Fort McMurray, a city with a population of more than 80,000 residents, spent their third week away from home last week. While more than 2,400 structures throughout the city have been destroyed, most essential infrastructure, including the hospital, water treatment plant and the airport, remain intact.