Canada evacuating 8,000 wildfire evacuees by air
May 6, Alberta: Some 8,000 people in Canada’s Fort McMurray have been airlifted due to massive wildfire raging in Alberta.
Officials will start moving thousands of people from work camps north of devastated Fort McMurray in a mass highway convoy Friday morning if it is safe from a wildfire.
Officials said that they have airlifted 8,000 people on Thursday and will continue the airlift Friday, while a mass migration of cars will move south in the morning.
The Alberta provincial government, which declared a state of emergency, said more than 1,100 firefighters, 145 helicopters, 138 pieces of heavy equipment and 22 air tankers were fighting the fire, but Chad Morrison, Alberta's manager of wildfire prevention, said rain is needed.
The fire continued to grow, but it is moving away from Fort McMurray and the rate of its growth has slowed. No rain clouds were expected around Fort McMurray until late Saturday, with 40 percent chance of showers, according to forecasts by Environment Canada.
About 25,000 evacuees moved north in the hours after Tuesday's mandatory evacuation, where oil sands work camps were converted to house people. But the bulk of the more than 80,000 evacuees fled south to Edmonton and elsewhere, and officials are moving everyone south where they can get better support services.
Officials flew 8,000 evacuees to Edmonton and Calgary by Thursday night. They hope the highway will become safe enough on Friday to move the remaining people out via the south. It was not safe Thursday.
A helicopter will lead the evacuation convoy on Friday morning to make sure the highway is safe. It will pass through Fort McMurray where the fire has torched 1,600 homes and other buildings.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the first convoy will be 400 vehicles and officials would see how that goes.
There have been no injuries or death in the province from the fires. Notley said financial support will be provided to Albertans and that cash cards may be made available for evacuated residents, reports said.
The Alberta government also declared a province-wide fire ban to reduce the risk of more blazes in a province that is very hot and dry.
Unseasonably hot temperatures combined with dry conditions have transformed the boreal forest in much of Alberta into a tinder box. Morrison said they are investigating the cause of the fire but he said it started in a remote forested area and said it could have been lightning, the Associated Press reported.
The Oslo Times