Richardson backcountry fire still growing on all sides

Richardson backcountry fire  still growing on all sides

The massive fire that has burned through Richardson backcountry and into Wood Buffalo National Park has become Alberta’s main priority fire.

While many of the other wildfires throughout the province have been brought under control by a combination of firefighting efforts and cooler temperatures, the Richardson backcountry fire continues to burn out of control.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development spokesperson Duncan MacDonnell told The Journal the fire has surpassed 300,000 hectares.

MacDonnell said several hundred Alberta firefighters are working to fight the fire on its eastern and southern flanks.

Firefighters and a water bomber from British Columbia have been brought in to assist with fire fighting efforts, and 44 firefighters from the NWT are currently camped out north of Fort McMurray.

Smoke in Fort Chipewyan was too thick on June 1 for the scheduled Northwestern Air flight from Fort Smith to land.

The community was showered with ash from the blaze on the morning of June 1.

Fort Chipewyan councilor David Blair said the encroaching fire has residents alarmed.

“When you can’t fly in or out of here, it’s pretty scary,” Blair said.

While cold weather and north eastern winds over the weekend pushed smoke away from Fort Chipewyan, winds are expected to return to the south and bring smoke towards the community later this week.

The nurse-in-charge at Nunee Health Authority in Fort Chipewyan, Leonard Allen, issued an advisory for anyone with chronic lung conditions in the community to stay indoors while the air remains smoky. The advisory was lifted over the weekend.

If the smoke returns, anyone with complications is asked to call Nunee at 780 697 3650.

A high-level team of Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo emergency preparation staff was supposed to arrive in Fort Chipewyan for a planning meeting on June 1, but had to turn back to Fort McMurray when their plane could not land due to smoke.

The wildfire north of Fort McKay has also grown and remains out of control. That fire has reached 9,000 hectares.

In Wood Buffalo National Park, the wildfire that crossed over the park’s southern border last week has spread north.

The fire has entered a stand of jack pine forest, where it is expected to continue burning north for days. Park fire crews are busy fighting the fire near Fort Chipewyan, while the fire in the south of the park burns unimpeded.

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