Displaced residents to return home while Canada's Fort McMurray wildfire still grows

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More than 80,000 displaced residents in Fort McMurray city of Canadian western Alberta province are expected to return home from June 1, the Alberta provincial government announced on Wednesday.

Residents of Fort McMurray fled two weeks ago when a wildfire, nicknamed "the Beast," rampaged into the city on May 3 and consumed over 2,400 homes and buildings.

At a news conference here on Wednesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley gave details about a phased re-entry plan outlined by the provincial government.

Since then, the displaced people have been living in evacuation centers in Edmonton, Calgary and other cities in Alberta province, or bunking with friends or relatives.

The re-entry plan calls on the displaced residents to return on a voluntary basis on June 1, with the entire population able to return by June 15.

For the time line, five conditions will have to be met, including no imminent fire threat to the city, qualified air quality, all roads open to traffic, fully-restored natural gas and electricity supply and enough available water and food.

Last week, the province started handing out pre-loaded debit cards -- 1,250 Canadian dollars (some 960 U.S. dollars) for adults and 600 Canadian dollars (some 460 dollars) for dependents -- to help evacuees pay daily expenses as they have waited to return homes.

However, the wildfire has spread steadily north and east of Fort McMurray and now covers over 4,230 square km of Canada's boreal forest as of Wednesday morning, destroying an oilsands camp while racing eastward toward more industry sites.

It forced 8,000 non-essential workers to flee the area Tuesday, and a mandatory evacuation order remains in place for all work camps north of the city.

By noon Wednesday, the eastern front of the fire appeared to be stalled about five km from the border with Saskatchewan province.

The Saskatchewan provincial government has established a wildfire base camp in the small community of Buffalo Narrows to use air tankers and helicopters along the eastern edge of the massive fire. Endi

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