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Tentative return dates announced for fire evacuees, and area gets a little rain

FILE PHOTO - Smoke fills the sky from wildfires over Fort McMurray, Alta., in a May 13, 2016, file photo.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
May 22, 2016 - 7:00 AM

EDMONTON - Fort McMurray residents got some good news this weekend as their municipality announced a timeline for them to return to their neighbourhoods, and the area also received a little bit of rain.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, released a neigbourhood-by-neighbourhood schedule for the phased re-entry of wildfire evacuees to the northern Alberta city.

Residents of the Lower Townsite, Anzac, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation and Gregoire Lake Estates will be the first residents to return on June 1 and other neighbourhoods will follow until June 4.

The province said there were "trace amounts" of rain in the area on Saturday and that the weather was good for making headway in fighting the fire.

Cooler temperatures and higher humidity over the last couple of days have helped firefighters contain the massive blaze to about 5,000 square kilometres, and evacuation orders were lifted for major oilsands operators north of the city late Friday.

The municipality issued a news release that says the return dates are tentative, and the phased re-entry is for safety and will ensure people have access to important services.

"The RMWB will be working hard over the next days and weeks to restore services to our residents," the release states.

"We look forward to welcoming you back and appreciate your resilience and patience."

The province had announced earlier this week that June 1 would be the tentative date for residents to begin to return to Fort McMurray. It said at the time that the date depended on wildfire conditions not impeding restoration efforts, and that remained the case on Saturday.

A tweet from the province on Saturday said workers returning to oilsands sites were permitted to head north on Highway 63, which passes through Fort McMurray, but there would be no access to the city and that there was nowhere to fuel up past Wandering River, about 200 kilometres south of the city.

Environment Canada said further rainfall was possible Sunday

The province plans to bring in an extra 1,000 firefighters over the next two weeks, adding to 1,100 already on the ground, Alberta senior wildfire manager Chad Morrison said Friday.

Many will come from a pool of Alberta crews who had been spelled off earlier in the month. The rest will come from other jurisdictions.

News from © The Canadian Press , 2016
The Canadian Press

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