Massive Alberta wildfire prompts Canada authorities to issue strong warnings
A massive wildfire in the Canadian province of Alberta has prompted authorities to issue strong warnings to residents as they continue to evacuate Fort McMurray City and working camps in the oil sands region.
There is a “high potential that the fire could double in size” by the end of Saturday, said Chad Morrison, Alberta’s manager of wildfire prevention.
Morrison said he expected the fire to expand into a more remote forested area northeast and away from Fort McMurray, located in northeastern Alberta.
Extremely dry conditions and a hot temperature of 27 Celsius (81 Fahrenheit) was expected Saturday along with strong winds, he said.
“We have not seen rain in this area for the last two months of significance,” Morrison stated. “This fire will continue to burn for a very long time until we see some significant rain.”
Speaking at a news conference on Saturday morning, Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the situation in the Fort McMurray area remained “unpredictable and dangerous.” Goodale added that firefighters from other provinces were being brought in the area to help those who have been fighting the inferno he described as a “beast of a fire.”
Environment Canada forecast a 40-percent chance of showers in the area on Sunday. Morrison said cooler weather was expected Sunday and Monday.
Fanned by high winds, scorching heat and low humidity, the fire grew from 75 square kilometers (29 square miles) on May 3 to 100 square kilometers (39 square miles) the next day, but by May 5 it was almost nine times the size, at 850 square kilometers (330 square miles).
The blaze, the largest of some 40 wildfires burning across Alberta, has forced some 88,000 residents, the entire population of Fort McMurray, to flee for safety.
The fire was so large that smoke is blanketing parts of the neighboring province of Saskatchewan, where Environment Canada has issued special air quality statements for several areas.
The region has the third-largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
The cause of the fire has not been determined, it is said that the fire started in a remote forested area and could have been ignited by lightning.