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Huge fire ‘being held’


FORT McMURRAY, Alta.—The huge wildfire known as “The Beast,” which tore through parts of Fort McMurray and northeastern Alberta, is classified as “being held” for the first time since it became out of control in early May.

Wildfire information officer Lynn Daina said the designation means the fire no longer is growing but is not yet under control.

Daina said it’s an important day for firefighters who have been battling the blaze for weeks.

“It is a big deal. It is like the happy dance day,” she said yesterday.

“There has been so much and so many people on this fire—more than 2,000 at its peak working it daily,” Daina added.

The perimeter of the fire, including burned areas, covers just under 5,900 square km.

Daina said the work of firefighters, combined with recent rainy weather and high humidity, checked the fire’s growth.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo estimates about half of the more than 80,000 people who fled the Fort McMurray area on May 3 are back in the community after being allowed to return this month.

Mayor Melissa Blake said the fact the fire now is being held is an important milestone.

The information will be critical to the thousands of people who still are trying to decide when to come home, she noted.

“To have it move in official status from ‘out of control’ to ‘being held’ is the first step toward getting it completely under control and annihilated,” Blake added.

“For me the moment of truth is it doesn’t have us anymore—we have got it.”

Meanwhile, there were more signs yesterday the city was continuing to bounce back from the disaster.

The regional hospital resumed providing more services, including surgeries, obstetrics, pediatric, and psychiatric care that were shut down last month due to the fire.

Alberta’s Provincial Building re-opened to provide some government services, with the provincial court to re-open next Monday.

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