Fort McMurray, Alberta, is best known today for its association with the oil sands industry. It is the top employer in the region with many available jobs in oil sands and supporting industries. Although not officially a city, “Fort Mac” is considered to be the heart of one of Canada’s major oil production hub.
Fort McMurray, formerly a city, became an urban service area when it amalgamated with Improvement District No. 143 in April 1995. With this amalgamation, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo was created.
Fort McMurray is located 435 kilometres northeast of Edmonton and about 60 kilometres west of the Saskatchewan border. Nestled in the boreal forest at the confluence of the Athabasca River and the Clearwater River, it is the largest community in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
Fort McMurray has a diverse and multicultural community and attracts people from all corners of Canada and the world.
There are four school districts in Fort McMurray, as well as five colleges and universities. And there are many opportunities to get training or upgrade your skills in or near the city.
There are 24 elementary and secondary schools within the public school districts in Fort McMurray and six in the rural areas of Wood Buffalo.
- The Fort McMurray Public School District is the public school district for students in Fort McMurray. Alternative programs include assisted self-paced studies, French Immersion, Fort McMurray Christian School and Fort McMurray Islamic School.
- The Fort McMurray Catholic School District is a faith-based learning environment, and offers French Immersion and First Nations, Metis, and Inuit language programs.
- The Northland School Division extends across Northern Alberta and includes the rural area surrounding both the Town of Peace River and Wood Buffalo.
- The Greater North Central Francophone Education Region is the Northern Alberta school district for French first language education.
- Keyano College
With a humid continental climate and no dry season, Fort McMurray has long, very cold winters and warm, short summers.
The town lies at a lower elevation than most other parts of Alberta. The warm season lasts from May 16 to September 14 with an average daily high temperature above17°C. The cold season lasts from November 17 to March 5 with an average daily high temperature below-4°C.
The hottest day of the year is July 20, with an average high of 24°C and the coldest day of the year is February 7, with an average low of -21°C.
Fort McMurray has an average annual precipitation of 456 millimetres – falls mainly in the summer months – and an average annual snowfall of 156 centimetres – appears within a range of 5 to 7 months.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo operates a public transit service that includes Fort McMurray, seven days a week. Services consist of local scheduled bus routes, specialized transportation for people with disabilities and school buses.
16 regular bus routes operate daily with two additional weekday rush hour routes to the main industrial areas and a special Saturday service for people in Saprae Creek. The system has reduced weekend service and does not operate at all on most holidays.
By air, Fort McMurray is serviced by many airlines, including Air Canada, WestJet, and United Airlines with scheduled flights to Calgary, Edmonton, Fort Chipewyan, Fort Smith, Lethbridge, Peace River, Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver, St. John’s and Denver.
As well, various oil companies operate their own corporate and charter flights.
Highway 63 is the only highway between Fort McMurray and Edmonton. Because of the demands of the oil sands industry, this highway boasts some of the highest tonnage per kilometer in Canada, and the largest and heaviest loads that trucks have ever carried.
Fort McMurray can also be accessed from Lac La Biche through Highway 881. The city is also served by Highway 69, which is a short spur off of Highway 63 that connects Fort McMurray with its airport and a few rural residential developments to the southeast.
For information on driving in Alberta and how to get a licence, see Driving.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo contracts Canada’s national police service – the RCMP – to provide law enforcement services for its citizens.
The Fort McMurray RCMP Detachment consists of both Provincial and Municipal civilian staff that provide administrative services to the RCMP.
In emergency call 9-1-1 immediately. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, the fire department or an ambulance. If the situation doesn’t require immediate attention, call 780-788-4000 (Complaint); 780-788-4040 (Admin).
Places of worship
Fort McMurray is home to a wide variety of religious beliefs and worship groups. To find out about different places of worship in Fort McMurray, click here.
Fort McMurray is located near the Athabasca Oil Sands and is considered the heart of one of Alberta’s (and Canada’s) hubs of oil production. Besides the oil sands, the city’s economy includes natural gas and oil pipelines, forestry and tourism. Oil sand companies include Syncrude, Suncor Energy, CNRL, Shell, and Nexen.
It is expected that the oilsands are going to be the economic engine for Canada for the next 25 to 30 years.
Because of the booming economy, housing prices and rents are far higher in Fort McMurray than normally expected in such a remote area. Fort McMurray had the highest prices in Alberta in 2006.
As well, the growth of the economy and population in Fort McMurray has put an enormous strain on public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools, the airport, the water treatment plant, sewer system, recreational facilities and hospitals.
In order to ease the pressure, the provincial and municipal governments are planning to build numerous public sector infrastructure projects to cope with Fort McMurray’s rapid growth.
Finding A Home
Finding a home in Fort McMurray shouldn’t be too difficult, however, rents are considered to be the highest in Canada and are continuing to rise, because of the continued flow of immigrants and workers coming to the region to work in the oilsands sector.
Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Fort McMurray is $2,229 per month; average home sale price is $769,153 for a single family unit.
To find rental apartments, you can check your local newspaper classifieds or online sites like Craigslist.
To purchase a home, contact a realtor in the area, who will guide you through the home-buying process.
As in other parts of Alberta, comprehensive health care services are available in Fort McMurray. Health care in the Wood Buffalo region is coordinated and delivered through Alberta Health Services, Northern Region, part of the Province’s health care system.
Many health services here are free for people who are covered by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP). People who do not have an AHCIP card must pay for health services. As a newcomer to Alberta, you can apply for the AHCIP three months before leaving your country of origin. If you are moving to Alberta from another province or territory in Canada, you can use Alberta health services until you are eligible for health insurance in the province.
The urban area of Fort McMurray offers a variety of community health and specialist services, in addition to a hospital and two medical centres. You can access primary care quickly here, as many Fort McMurray family doctors are accepting new patients. For some speciality services, however, you may need to travel to Edmonton.
Hospital: Northern Lights Regional Health Centre
Facilities in rural communities in Wood Buffalo: Community Health Centres
Though more famous for its employment opportunities, Fort McMurray is a unique and vibrant community, with people coming from all over the world to work, play and raise their families here.
There is always so much to do in Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region:
Click here for a list of upcoming events and recreation facilities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.