Fort McMurray ( mik-MURR-ee) is a population centre, technically classified as an urban service area, in the Regional Municipality (RM) of Wood Buffalo in Alberta, Canada. It is located in northeast Alberta, in the middle of the Athabasca oil sands, surrounded by boreal forest.
It has played a significant role in the development of the national petroleum industry. A severe wildfire in May 2016 led to the evacuation of its residents and caused widespread damage. Formerly a city, Fort McMurray became an urban service area when it amalgamated with Improvement District No. 143 on April 1, 1995, to create the Municipality of Wood Buffalo (renamed the RM of Wood Buffalo on August 14, 1996). Despite its current official designation of urban service area, many locals, politicians and the media still refer to Fort McMurray as a city. Fort McMurray was known simply as McMurray between 1947 and 1962. Before the arrival of Europeans in the late 18th Century, the Cree were the dominant First Nations people in the Fort McMurray area. The Athabasca oil sands were known to the locals and the surface deposits were used to waterproof their canoes. In fur trade days the location of Fort McMurray was an important junction on the fur trade route from eastern Canada to the Athabasca country.