Fort McMurray residents to return home

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Residents from the neighbourhood of Abasand (pictured) are not able to return yet

Some Fort McMurray residents are to return home for the first time since a huge wildfire that displaced 90,000 people in north-west Canada.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the conditions needed for the return of the residents had been met.

The first residents will return on Wednesday, although three neighbourhoods remain off-limits.

Authorities will continue assessing conditions daily, and the plans could change if conditions worsen.

CBC reported that five conditions had to be met for people to return, including the restoration of critical services such as police and healthcare.

Air quality is expected to continue improving in the city thanks to cooler weather and expected rain.

“The resilience and determination of the people of Fort McMurray continues to impress me every single day,” Ms Notley wrote on Facebook.

“I know that even in the face of this challenging and frustrating news, that they will remain strong, resilient, and together.”

She said 500 homes in the Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways neighbourhoods had been deemed unsafe for habitation, meaning about 9,000 people will have to stay out of Fort McMurray for the immediate future.

Media captionFort McMurray firefighter: ‘Never seen anything closet to this scale’

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A heavy police presence will accompany residents returning to Fort McMurray

A boil-water advisory notice remains in place and the province is warning certain at-risk groups to be careful about coming back.

“To residents choosing to return this week, I ask you to not go home without a plan,” Ms Notley said. “Bring food, water and any other supplies needed for the next two weeks.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police will be patrolling the city as residents start their return.

“When they say to bring 14 days worth of food and water, they mean it,” said Jim Mandeville, an official with disaster clean-up group FirstOnSite.

“And when they say people with respiratory conditions shouldn’t come up here, they mean it – and they have a really good reason why. It is not a clean, safe, normal environment that you’re walking into.”

The fire began on 3 May and destroyed more than 2,400 homes and buildings. It shut off nearly a quarter of Canada’s oil production as it approached Alberta’s oil sands.

The fire is still burning and covers about 580,000 hectares (5,800 sq km), including part of the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan, but is not expected to grow significantly.

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