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A massive wildfire is threatening the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta, forcing people out of their homes. The fire initially started on Sunday, but has grown rapidly since and has now made its way into the city of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for several neighborhoods in different parts of Fort McMurray on Tuesday afternoon with voluntary evacuations in place for the rest of the city. Several homes have also been destroyed as of late Tuesday afternoon.
Wildfire prompts mandatory evacuation order for all of Fort McMurray, Alberta, authorities say
So far, the blaze has burned over 2,600 hectares (10 square miles) and continues to grow. "The fire conditions are extreme," Darby Allen, regional fire chief for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, said during an 11 a.m. update Tuesday. "The humidity levels are going to be decreased quicker because the ambient temperature is hotter, so that means the fire will be able to go more ferociously and quicker than in days previously," Allen added.
Nearly 30,000 people were under a mandatory evacuation order to flee the Fort McMurray region Tuesday afternoon. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo issued a mandatory evacuation for 12 communities at 4:15 p.m. as the wildfire situation worsened. The order was issued for: Abasand, Beacon Hill, Gregoire, Waterways, Draper, Saline Creek, Grayling Terrace, downtown, Thickwood, Wood Buffalo, Dickinsfield and Lower Townsite. RELATED Fort McMurray wildfire: Boreal forests designed to burn, makes fighting it a challenge Fort McMurray wildfire: ‘The fire conditions are extreme’: fire chief on how fire will be worse on Tuesday Fort McMurray wildfire: High temps and low humidity will be challenging on Tuesday Scott Long of Alberta Emergency Management said the flames have burned a number of structures, but he couldn’t say how many. One hotel was seen engulfed in flames. The hospital in Fort McMurray – the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre – was being evacuated at 5:20 p.m. As of 5 p.m. Noralta Lodge’s village location was full, and residents were being asked to head further north to Noralta’s Grey Wolf location, 63 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
Several homes have been impacted. Hundreds of firefighters are on the fire. It jumped 63 at several places
Fire chief calls this 'worst day of his career' as thousands evacuated due to Fort McMurray, Alberta, wildfire -
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Headed north to safety but this was Abasand hill at 3:45pm when we got out
The entire city of 60,000 has been ordered evacuated. Residents fleeing the fire have caused gridlock on Highway 63 leading north and south out of the city.
Homes in Beacon Hill and the Centennial Trailer Park have been destroyed.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the fire moved into the downtown core.
Thousands flee in largest fire evacuation in Alberta's history
As tens of thousands flee a ferocious wildfire in Fort McMurray, some residents are openly wondering what will be left to come back to.
More than 80,000 residents have been ordered to flee the oilsands city — the largest fire evacuation in Alberta’s history, including from the massive Slave Lake wildfires five years ago.
People evacuating their homes downtown reported seeing helicopters dropping water or fire retardant on the municipal buildings on Franklin Avenue. Highway 63 north and south of town became choked with traffic Tuesday afternoon as waves of residents fled the city. Abasand resident Mallory Hood drove past the ‘Welcome to Fort McMurray’ sign on her way out of town and said it looked like it was on fire.
Meanwhile, about 50 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, many evacuees found shelter in Fort McKay, where the First Nations and Metis communities have banded together to mobilize emergency resources.
Hundreds of people have arrived so far with more on the way, said Dwayne Roth, CEO of the the Fort McKay Metis Community Association.
“It’s jam-packed, bumper-to-bumper with vehicles from Fort McMurray,” said Roth.
Unseasonably hot temperatures combined with dry conditions have transformed the boreal forest in much of Alberta into a tinder box. The wildfire threat ranges from very high to extreme.
The province was calling in more reinforcements to Fort McMurray, including 100 more firefighters and a giant helicopter that can dump more than 2,000 litres of water at a time.
Thomas said he’s on the way to the evacuation centre with nothing but the clothes on his back.
“It’s going to be an intense 24 hours as we work our way through this, but it truly is a catastrophic event.”
The masses of people travelling out of the city left Fort McMurray with no gas as of Tuesday night.
"There's no more fuel in Fort McMurray and it's being drained as we go south," said Schmitte.
Other people heading southbound set up in Anzac and Lac La Biche. But when Highway 63 was closed for several hours on Tuesday evening, another stream of those forced from their homes headed north to find temporary lodging at oilsands camps in the area.
"Realistically, we are seeing camps fill up. The camps closer to town have been filled," said Robin Smith, spokesman for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. "People are pushing on toward Syncrude [further north].”