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Fort McMurray wildfire classified as ‘being held’

A wildfire burning near Fort McMurray in northeastern Alberta is now classified as “being held.”

In an update at 7 p.m. Sunday, Alberta Wildfire downgraded the status of the wildfire, which was previously classified as out of control. The fire did not grow on Sunday, and it was 19,451 hectares in size.

“Given current weather conditions and resources, the wildfire is not anticipated to grow past expected boundaries,” Alberta Wildfire said in its Sunday evening update.

“The change of status signifies that the risk of this wildfire growing towards the community and important infrastructure is greatly reduced. As such, we have started the process of removing structure protection equipment from the areas where it had been installed.”

The closest point of the fire remains about 5.5 kilometres from the Fort McMurray landfill and 4.5 kilometres from the intersection of highways 63 and 881.

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The wildfire danger is low in the Fort McMurray Forest Area. Cooler temperatures and rain over the past few days have helped wildfire crews. About 40 millimetres of rain has fallen on the fire since May 16, according to Alberta Wildfire.

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“Firefighters and heavy equipment operators have been able to take advantage of the recent rain to make excellent progress on containing the wildfire,” Alberta Wildfire said.

“The fire is not expected to grow but remains active in the interior of the perimeter. Firefighters are looking for hot spots, digging them up and extinguishing them. This is a lengthy process that requires time and hard work to complete.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta Wildfire video shows overnight helicopter firefighting efforts'

Alberta Wildfire video shows overnight helicopter firefighting efforts

While this is all positive news in the fire fight, a fire ban remains in effect for the entire Fort McMurray Forest Area. An off-highway vehicle restriction is in place in the area south of Lake Athabasca.

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Wildfire officials said once warm and dry conditions return, the interior of the wildfire perimeter will become more active.

“Pockets of unburnt vegetation may catch on fire and smoke may be visible once again. This is normal and expected. Firefighters, with the support of helicopters, will continue to extinguish hot spots until the wildfire is brought under control.

About 6,600 residents were forced to flee Fort McMurray last Tuesday. Evacuation orders were dropped on Saturday morning and residents were allowed to return home.

The cause of the wildfire remains under investigation.

For the latest information on which areas in Alberta are under an evacuation alert or order due to a wildfire, visit the Alberta Emergency Alert website.

For the latest information on the wildfire status and danger across the province, visit the Alberta Wildfire website.

The latest information on fire advisories, restrictions and bans across the province can be found on the Alberta fire bans website.

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