Fort McMurray fire: Raging wildfire forces 80000 to flee Canadian town

A massive wildfire burning in Alberta, Canada moved through the city of Fort McMurray, forcing the entire city to be evacuated.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of about 80,000 people, including the entire city of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said Wednesday.

The blaze has already destroyed 80% of Fort McMurray’s Beacon Hill community, RM Wood Buffalo said. Well over a dozen homes burned down, but the full breadth of the destruction remains unclear.

“This is a nasty and dirty fire,” Fire Chief Darby Allen of Fort McMurray fire department told reporters. “There are certainly areas within the city that have not been burned, but this fire will look for them and it will find them and it will want to take them. And our challenge today is to prevent.”

The wildfire now covers about 18,500 acres (7,500 hectares), officials said.

Paul Spring said his neighborhood went down in flames. “The whole subdivision is gone,” the longtime pilot and firefighter said. “Things are pretty horrible right now. We’ve been out flying and surveying the damage.”

Spring is the president of Phoenix Heli-Flight. Despite his loss, he hasn’t stopped working. He said his team will fly firefighting missions, dropping water and assisting crews on the ground.

“As long as we keep the people safe, we can rebuild the houses,” he said.

Despite the catastrophic images, no injuries have been reported.

Strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity will again create “explosive conditions” on Wednesday, said Bernie Schmitte, forestry manager in the nearby municipality of Wood Buffalo. Schmitte added that more resources are being assembled across Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tweeted a message of support to the residents of Fort McMurray, calling on them to follow evacuation orders. Trudeau promised that the federal government would help those affected by the disaster.

The intensity of the fire can be assumed by looking at these photos shared on Twitter:

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

Tribune International