Massive wildfires near the oils sands town of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, have forced the evacuation of all of its residents. The forest fires started over the weekend and grew from 1,285 hectares on Tuesday to approximately 2,600 hectares on Wednesday. On Wednesday evening, a mandatory evacuation of even more areas was issued, including Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation.
Efforts to control the fire are ongoing, but high temperatures, low relative humidity and wind shifts are creating challenges, according to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Currently there are no injuries reported, however, several neighborhoods have sustained a significant amount of damage.
“Our hearts go out to the residents and the citizens of Fort McMurray,” said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. “I know that this is a very scary time and a very, very stressful time.”
The main focus is on the safety of the residents in the area and getting everyone to a safe location, she said. The government is working with other municipalities to find space for those being evacuated. This is the largest evacuation in the province’s history due to a fire, she added.
According to the Darby Allen, regional fire chief and director of emergency management for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, as of May 4, Beacon Hill and Abasand have sustained the most structural damage from the fires, with 70% and 50%, respectively, of homes lost. Other areas affected include along the Waterways, Grayling Terrace, Thickwood, Timberleaf, Dickinsfield and Wood Buffalo. Gregoire and Saline Creek have so far not sustained any damage.