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As weather conditions slightly improve and the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire begins to slow its growth, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley prepares for a difficult first-hand look at the damage.

Tour through Fort McMurray confirms 85 percent of it saved


Andrea Bagley
Digital Reporter

Monday, May 9, 2016, 8:46 AM - As weather conditions slightly improve and the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire begins to slow its growth, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley prepared residents and media for a difficult first-hand look at the damage.


FORT MCMURRAY FIRE COVERAGE: 


Notley reported the fire is stabilized to the point where she and Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake visited the fire scene and to begin the next phase of recovery operations. Fire Chief Darby Allen, as well as a limited number of media personnel including The Weather Network's Mark Robinson, joined Notley and Blake on the tour, which was escorted by RCMP and emergency vehicles. The fire chief reported on the tour that 85 per cent of structures in Fort McMurray were saved.

Notley did warn residents to brace themselves for the "dramatic images" that will be released over the media in the days to come.

"There will be some dramatic images coming from media over the next couple of days," she said. "I want to reiterate mental health supports are available for anyone who needs help."

RELATED: Follow Mark Robinson's LIVE periscope from within Fort McMurray here

Fort McMurray remains under a mandatory evacuation

Despite improvements with the fire's growth, a mandatory evacuation order remains in place for Fort McMurray.

"Fort McMurray remains under a mandatory evacuation order, and only emergency personnel working on fire suppression, policing, and infrastructure responders should be in the area," said the Government of Alberta, in a critical alert update on Sunday afternoon. "The Fort McMurray Airport is being used by Wildfire Aircraft, and is operational but is only being used by aircraft associated to Firefighting efforts."

According to Alberta's Emergency Management Agency, the response plan is now moving into a stabilization phase.

Still too early to celebrate

Light rain and cooler, below seasonal temperatures this week will help in the fire fight. For the first time since evacuations began, officials are expressing signs of optimism.

On Saturday, authorities said they expected the fire to double in size to at least 200,000 hectares, but at a Sunday briefing, Alberta’s wildfire manager, Chad Morrison, said the fire was only 161,000 hectares as of early Sunday, indicating slower growth than initially expected. Morrison said firefighters had successfully held the fire in Fort McMurray, as well as nearby Anzac.

Though turning a corner, officials say it's still too early to celebrate as there is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done.

Emotional Mother's Day

Typically a day dedicated for celebrations, Mother's Day this past Sunday was a tough one for Albertans. Including Premier Notley who struggled to speak at a media briefing while addressing the two evacuees that were killed in a car accident last week.

"Our hearts go out to their families," she said. "This is Mother's Day. I am hoping, in all of this crisis, to spend a few minutes today with my own children. That not all of us can do that is definitely an awful tragedy. So today, Mother's Day, all of us in Alberta are thinking of you who have suffered these loses."

15-year-old Emily Ryan and her stephmother's nephew 19-year-old Aaron Hodgson, died in a collision during the initial evacuation.

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