Canada: Evacuations as wildfire closes in on oil sands town

Canada: Evacuations as wildfire closes in on oil sands town
Canada: Evacuations as wildfire closes in on oil sands town

Some 6,000 people have already evacuated from Fort McMurray as the wildfire approached and grew in size. Authorities hope favorable weather conditions can turn the blaze away from the town.

Authorities in Canada are hopeful that a massive wildfire will turn away from a town in the heart of the country’s oil-producing region in Alberta.

Some 6,000 people had evacuated from Fort McMurray as of Wednesday and the blaze scorched almost 21,000 hectares (52,000 acres) of forest and nearly doubled in size as it approached the town.

But Alberta Wildfire spokesperson Christie Tucker said on Wednesday night that cooler temperatures and calmer winds were expected to weaken and “push the fire away from Fort McMurray.”

Regional Fire Chief Jody Butz said, “The fire is still out of control and in the next few days with the graces of some good weather that could change.”

The wildfire has swept across Canada’s major oil sands region in Alberta

Nevertheless, Alberta Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis urged residents to “remain vigilant” and stressed that “wildfire conditions can change and deteriorate rapidly.”

Residents face ‘fear and uncertainty’

Fort McMurray, once an oil sands boom town that is now home to 68,000 people, is no stranger to wildfires.

In 2016 the town was ravaged by a devastating blaze that destroyed 2,400 homes and forced more than 80,000 people to flee.

“I’m sure these memories will create fear and uncertainty for many in Fort McMurray,” said Alberta Governor Danielle Smith. “My sympathy is with everyone facing this situation, but safety must remain our top priority.”

Smith’s government announced that those displaced by fire evacuations would be eligible to receive CA$1,250 ($920 €885) per adult and CA$600 per child.

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