Canada, Alberta – More than 25,000 of the 80,000 people who were evacuated from the city of Fort McMurray this week were being relocated again on Saturday as uncontrollable flames threaten to double in size. A government alert said the entire city in the Alberta province was under mandatory evacuation and it clearly stated families should forget about returning home “for an extended period of time”.

The Alberta provincial government declared the fire had expanded to more than 600 square miles by midday, up from 390 square miles reported on Friday.

Authorities have yet to determine what sparked the inferno in Canada’s oil sands region on April 30. Image Credit: New Yorker
Authorities have yet to determine what sparked the inferno in Canada’s oil sands region on April 30. Image Credit: New Yorker

“It is a dangerous, unpredictable fire,” Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said. “An absolutely vicious fire.”

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said all of the firefighters involved in the Alberta emergency have suggested a heavy downpour is the only one solution, according to NBC News.

Unfortunately, the odds of such precipitation forecast in Fort McMurray are not in the city’s favor, at least not this weekend. senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman said he and his colleagues believed a stray shower or snow shower might happen this week, but that will not be enough to quell the flames.

Erdman added that high temperatures and wind gusting at 20 mph were worsening the blaze in a city that has gone 10 days in a row without any precipitation. The government said the dry conditions have led to forty fires burning across the province. Seven have been considered totally out of control.

Authorities relocated 7,500 people on Friday. Some were airlifted while others were moved on about 1,500 vehicles thanks to efforts involving the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the military, according to officers.

Crews expected to transport all of the remaining evacuees to the south by Saturday evening, but Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Kevin Kunetzki said drivers were struggling as the smoke was blocking visibility beyond 30 feet.

Officials said they did not believe further evacuations would be needed because the flames were mostly headed towards rural areas and forests.

Help being deployed so far

The wildfire has destroyed over 1,600 homes and other buildings. Canadian authorities have reported fatalities caused by two fire-related traffic accidents, but the blaze itself has not led to deaths.

Efforts to help evacuees involved about 110 helicopters, more than 1,200 firefighters, 295 pieces of heavy equipment plus 27 air tankers, according to the report by NBC News.

Premier of Alberta Rachel Notley said her cabinet has authorized a $1,250 payment per evacuated adult plus $500 Canadian per evacuated dependent, which will cost $100 million to the province.

As for the Canadian Red Cross, it has raised $30 million for affected people and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to match every individual donation by May 31.

Source: NBC News