Fort McMurray Area Update

Fort McMurray Forest Area Wildfire Update - September 21, 2023

Posted on Thu, Sep 21, 2023



The wildfire danger is EXTREME within the Fort McMurray Forest Area.

A fire advisory remains in effect for the Fort McMurray Forest Area. See details below. 

Please be very cautious when spending time outdoors, as conditions are dry and windy. Wildfires can ignite easily and spread quickly. 

Report wildfires immediately by calling 310-FIRE (3473).

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The forecasted fire danger map is updated daily around 3 pm.


Due to the numerous wildfires in western Canada, smoky conditions will continue. Anyone with health concerns should visit Alberta Health Services or call 811 for health advice from Alberta Health Link. Before travelling check 511 Alberta for information the latest road conditions or closures. Visit Fire Smoke Canada to see where the smoke is coming from. To view wildfires on a map, download the AB Wildfire Status App or visit the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard.


Wood Buffalo Complex

(Previously Parks Canada Fire 7, Alberta Wildfire MNZ003, and NWT SS069)

regrowth wood buffalo complex sept 20 (1)

Plants are growing back within the burnt area (September 20, 2023).

View the latest wildfire map.

This wildfire is managed under unified command between Alberta Wildfire, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and Parks Canada from the incident command post in Fort Smith.

The Wood Buffalo Complex was last estimated at 489,064 hectares in size and is classified as out of control, which means that the fire is still burning and is expected to grow.

The northern perimeter of the fire closest to communities, where fire growth has been deemed intolerable, has been mapped at 149 kilometres in length. About 57 per cent of this fire perimeter is now considered controlled, and 42 per cent is considered contained. A controlled fire perimeter is the portion of fire perimeter that has received sufficient suppression action to ensure no further spread of fire. A contained fire perimeter is the portion of the fire perimeter that is not expected to spread given current resource commitments and forecasted weather and fire behavior conditions. Together, 99 percent of the northern intolerable perimeter is now considered contained or controlled.
There are currently 216 personnel responding to the Wood Buffalo Complex, which includes 30 pieces of heavy equipment, 12 helicopters and 109 firefighters and structure protection firefighters. These numbers fluctuate as personnel leave the incident for much needed rest and new personnel and resources arrive.


Today, temperatures are forecast at 20 degrees Celsius with a relative humidity at 30 percent. Winds are expected to be 25 km/h, with gusts of up to 40-55 km/h.
Work today may be hampered by high winds due to increased risks of falling trees. High winds may also impact aerial operations.
Temperatures remain 5 degrees above seasonal levels and are expected to rise over the coming days.
Conditions remain extremely dry. The drought code has now reached over 1200. The previous record reached in the Fort Smith area was 840. A drought code over 300 is considered extreme.

What is being done

Thebacha: Firefighters continue to extinguish hotspots along Connie’s Road and Foxholes Road to secure the perimeter. Crews continue to remove structure protection west of Bell Rock up to the Thebacha Road. Removal of the structure protection is the first step in preparing the area for access to the general public. The Power Corp is working closely with structure protection firefighters to ensure the safe reconnection of power to homes.
The Thebacha Road remains closed to the general public, however residents and boat launch users will have access starting at 4:00 p.m. today. Structure protection demobilization will continue after public access has been restored to the area – if residents are returning, please be mindful of crews working in the area.
Some residents may notice bell holes on their properties – these are holes dug into the ground used as improvised reservoirs to provide a water source to the structure protection sprinklers. Crews will be reclaiming these over the coming days. Until they have been filled in, please be aware of the hazard they may pose
​Fort Fitzgerald: Crews and heavy equipment are working east from the Hay Camp Road along the dozer guard to extinguish hotspots in this area. The fire has burned deeply into the ground here and this work is anticipated to take some time.
Heat-sensing scans continue to be completed on a regular basis to help firefighters find and extinguish hot spots.
Fort Smith: The evacuation order for the Town of Fort Smith has been lifted. An evacuation alert remains in place.
​Hwy 5: Highway 5 is open to the public. Crews continue to work on demobilizing equipment. A speed reduction to 50 km/h is in place where firefighters are present in order ensure their safety. Please be mindful of crews who continue to work along the road – slow down and give them space to work as you pass.
Reclamation: Crews are working to rehabilitate dozer guards that are no longer needed to protect homes and the community. On average, crews are completing 3km a day of reclamation work. Work is ongoing along Parson’s Lake Road and in the Pine Lake Road area.
Today’s high winds will significantly increase the risk of falling trees. Land users are asked to exercise extreme caution if they are in forested areas. Recently burned forests should be avoided.
Trees with burnt root systems or trees that are partially burnt can fall easily and without warning, especially in windy conditions. They pose a significant risk of serious or fatal injury. With the high drought codes even unburned trees may be unstable.
Local closures
  • The Thebacha Road remains closed to the general public. Residents and boat launch users will have access starting at 4:00 p.m. today.
  • Pine Lake Day Use Area remains closed.
  • Connie’s Road, Foxholes Road remain closed.
  • Hay Camp Road remains closed.

Additional wildfire information

For information on other wildfires in the area:

Report any wildfires or suspicious smoke:

  • Alberta: 310-FIRE
  • Northwest Territories: 1-877-NWT-FIRE
  • Wood Buffalo National Park: 867-621-0136

Fire Advisory banner


A fire advisory is in effect for the entire Fort McMurray Forest Area due to continued hot and dry conditions which will increase the fire behaviour potential.

Under this advisory:

  • Existing fire permits are still valid but may be suspended or cancelled if warm, dry weather continues.
  • The issuing or suspension of new permits is left to the discretion of a forest officer until conditions change.
  • Permits for the use of fireworks and exploding targets will not be issued.


Any burning without a valid fire permit, other than a campfire.


  • Safe wood campfires (including charcoal briquettes) in backcountry or random camping areas
  • Safe wood campfires (including charcoal briquettes) on private lands and in provincial campgrounds
  • Backyard fire pits
  • Charcoal briquette barbeques
  • Gas and liquid powered appliances (stoves and lanterns)
  • Open flame oil devices (e.g., turkey deep fryers, tiki torches)
  • Catalytic or infrared-style heaters
  • Indoor wood fires

Remember to check the hot spots on your off-highway vehicle (OHV) and remove debris before and after use.

Never leave a campfire unattended. Soak it, stir it and soak it again until cool to the touch to ensure it is extinguished.

If you see a wildfire, report it immediately by calling 310-FIRE.

The fire advisory will remain in effect until conditions improve.


Since January 1, 2023 there have been 59 wildfires in the Fort McMurray Forest Area, burning a total of approximately 364,359 hectares (ha). 

MWF021 was detected on May 27 and is located approximately 38 km south of Wood Buffalo National Park. This wildfire is classified as under control (UC) and is 14,760 ha in size. This wildfire was caused by lightning.

MWF023 was detected May 28 and is located near Birch Mountains Wildland Provincial Park. This wildfire is classified as under control (UC) and is 54,639 ha in size. This wildfire was caused by lightning.

MWF024 was detected May 28 and is located east of Marguerite River Wildland Provincial Park. This wildfire is classified as under control (UC) and is approximately 28,454 ha in size. This wildfire was caused by lightning.

MWF025 was detected May 28 and is located approximately 7 km north of Fort Chipewyan. This wildfire is classified as being held and is approximately 105,251 ha in size. This wildfire was caused by lightning.

This wildfire no longer poses a threat to the community of Fort Chipewyan, Allison Bay, Dog Head, or the Fort Chipewyan airport. Eighty per cent of the wildfire perimeter is controlled, which includes the entire south perimeter.

MWF038 was detected on June 29 and is located approximately 6 km north of the Slave Lake/Fort McMurray Forest Area border. This wildfire is classified as under control (UC) and is approximately 569 ha in size. This wildfire was caused by lightning.

MWF039 was detected on June 29 and is located within Birch Mountains Wildland Provincial Park but has crossed over into the Slave Lake Forest Area. This wildfire is classified as under control (UC) and is approximately 15,200 ha in size. This wildfire was caused by lightning.

MWF043 was detected on June 30 and is approximately 20 km southeast of Fort Fitzgerald. This wildfire is classified as being held and is approximately 130,805 ha in size. This wildfire was caused by lightning. 

This wildfire is not currently moving any closer to Fort Smith or Fort Fitzgerald. 

Mutual-aid wildfires:

MNZ001 is located on the south edge of the Alberta/Wood Buffalo National Park border. This wildfire is classified as being held and is approximately 2,595 ha.


Since January 1, 2023 in the Forest Protection Area, there have been 1,022 wildfires burning a total of approximately 2,067,658 ha. Visit Alberta Wildfire Status to view active wildfires across Alberta.


Fire lookouts are on high alert constantly watching for smoke and firefighters in helicopters are assessing potential wildfire sightings, ready to respond to any new wildfires that may start.

Wildland firefighters urge everyone to be extremely cautious when out in the Forest Protection Area. Check your winter burns, and comply with fire bans and OHV restrictions.

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Remember to check Alberta Fire Bans for fire advisories, bans or restrictions in your area or destination. If you are camping in a provincial or national park, check the rules and guidelines and be sure to follow them for your safety and the safety of other campers.

Safe wood campfires - should be within a metal, brick, or rock fire ring.

They are required to:

  • be on rock, gravel, sand, or another non-combustible surface that extends at least one metre around the fire
  • have a responsible person in attendance to keep fire under control at all times and extinguish before leaving
  • have enough water on hand to extinguish the fire. Safe wood campfires on private lands include private land campgrounds and private land recreation areas.

Always let the fire burn down before you plan to extinguish it. Spread the embers within the fire pit, then add water or loose dirt and stir. Repeat until your campfire is cool to the touch. You should not be able to feel any heat from the ashes.


If you plan on riding OHVs in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta, you can reduce the risk of your vehicle causing a wildfire by following these simple steps:

  • Before you ride, clean out hot spots and remove debris from your machine.
  • After riding through muskeg or tall grass, stop and remove any build-up from your machine.
  • Carry firefighting equipment such as a small shovel, collapsible pail or fire extinguisher.
  • Wash your OHV and keep it clean; do not wash in streams and creeks.
  • Make sure your muffler and spark arrestor are working properly.
  • Stop frequently. Take the time to knock debris from your machine’s hot spots. If the debris is smouldering, soak it, stir it, and soak it again to make sure it is extinguished.

For more information, see Off-highway vehicles: Wildfire prevention tips.


The Forest and Prairie Protection Act and associated regulations applies to the shooting, ignition or detonation of exploding targets and fireworks on public lands and private lands located within the FPA.

A Forest Officer from the local forest area office may grant written permission to shoot, ignite or detonate exploding targets or fireworks in the FPA. Written permission of exploding targets and fireworks is based on current wildfire danger and managed on a case-by-case basis.

A fire advisory, restriction, ban or forest closure may prohibit or limit use of exploding targets and fireworks during high wildfire hazard situations within the FPA. Check Alberta Fire Bans or download the Alberta Fire Bans app for the latest information.


The wildfire dashboard provides up-to-date wildfire information at the click of a button. This interactive tool displays important statistics on the number of active wildfires in the Forest Protection Area of Alberta, sizes, locations, suspected causes and more.


Emily Smith
Wildfire Information Officer | Fort McMurray Forest Area
Phone: 780-799-9253
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