May 06, 2016 - 10:57 AM
FORT McMURRAY - Just days after a wildfire was discovered, it ripped through Fort McMurray, forcing the evacuation of 80,000 people and destroying numerous homes. Today the fire continues to spread, threatening to cut off the people who fled north from the cities south of them and forcing a second evacuation of tens of thousands of people.
The wildfire was discovered Sunday, May 1, and on Tuesday morning, May 3, officials thought they were getting a handle on it. Strong winds and high temperatures fuelled the fire though and by early afternoon major evacuations began.
By evening the fire was beginning to rip through town as all 80,000 residents fled under a mandatory evacuation order. Officials have since said serious damage and loss has hit some areas of the community but no loss of life has been reported.
On Wednesday, more evacuations were ordered in areas west of Edmonton, where more wildfires came close to communities and destroyed several buildings. The province declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon in an effort to bring in more help from out of province.
In the early morning hours Thursday, May 5, evacuees in the several areas were moved again as changing weather patterns had the fire heading south and by early afternoon crews were looking to move thousands of the northern evacuees south as well. North of Fort McMurray oilsands operations have been shut down and work camps cleared out to make room for evacuees.
By late morning officials were estimating the fire at roughly 85,000 hectares and while 1,600 buildings had already been destroyed other city infrastructure had been saved so far, including a main bridge, the downtown area and the water treatment plant. By early afternoon Thursday officials were saying the fire had 'exploded' in size and the city was being water bombed to help protect it from being overwhelmed by the flames.
A B.C. wildfire also crossed the border into northern Alberta Thursday night, but B.C. Wildfire crews will continue to maintain responsibility for that fire to ease the burden on Alberta wildfire crews.
Friday a convoy of evacuees at risk of being secluded north of Fort McMurray were being moved south while the Fort McMurray fire and others continued to grow around the province. The Fort McMurray fire is now said to be 1,000 square kilometres, or roughly 100,000 hectares. Officials have said the out of control fire could easily burn for weeks.
Temperatures are expected to remain cooler in the area today, May 6, but winds gusting up to 40 kilometres per hour could fuel the fire and temperatures in the high 20s are expected to return Saturday, along with gusting winds.
Canadians have already donated more than $30 million to the Red Cross for Fort McMurray relief efforts. The Alberta and Canadian government have both promised to match funds raised by the organization as well.
You can find the latest stories on the wildfire here:
Canadian convoy begins, hoping to flee wildfire zone
RCMP tactical teams search for stragglers who refuse to leave Fort McMurray
Exhausted wildfire diaspora worry about their future in Fort McMurray
Forest fire location, not necessarily size, priority for battling blazes
Fort McMurray fire evacuees get first view of burned city
Concerns arise that fire may have taken out as much as half of oilsands output
Crews scramble as Fort McMurray fire explodes in size, continues to threaten
Few breaks, no shut-eye for firefighters battling Fort McMurray blaze
Fire crews fight to prevent spread of embers as winds expected to move in
Owners concerned for pets abandoned amid Fort McMurray wildfire evacuations
Fort McMurray fire Chief Darby Allen the human face of wildfire fight
CNRL says production could be nearly halved due to power grid concerns from fire
Gasoline prices set to rise as wildfire cuts deep into oilsands production
Military choppers, planes joining wildfire fight with promise of more help
Federal government to match Red Cross donations for Fort McMurray fire
Trudeau offers full federal assistance to fire-stricken Fort McMurray
Leaving Fort McMurray: Stories from the wildfire evacuees
Syrian refugees resettled in Fort McMurray forced to flee from 'fire to fire'
Fort McMurray residents face serious challenges in months, years ahead: expert
Some numbers associated with the Fort McMurray fire
A look at resources being used to fight wildfire in Fort McMurray
A look at how a wildfire consumed large parts of Fort McMurray
How to help those affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire
Raging wildfire in Alberta comes five years after Slave Lake blaze
Economic fallout of Alberta wildfire could spread beyond closed oil operations
— With files from The Canadian Press
— This story will be updated throughout the day as new information and stories become available
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016