The entire population of the Canadian city of Fort McMurray (60 000), Alberta is under mandatory evacuation order amid massive uncontrolled wildfire that entered the city. In the biggest evacuation order in the history of Alberta, the officials appealed for military help to battle the fire and airlift people from the smoke-filled city.
The 2 650-hectare (6 540-acre) fire, which was discovered on Sunday, May 1, spread rapidly with strong winds on Tuesday, May 3, and reached the city limits.
The blaze closed off the main southern exit from the city, Highway 93, prompting many residents to head north towards the oil sands camps, Reuters reported.
Fire chief Darby Allen said late Tuesday afternoon (local time) they did not have an estimate of the number of homes destroyed but said the fire is burning in several areas in the city’s south end and had destroyed a mobile home park. The entire neighborhood of Beacon Hill appears to have been lost and the fire burned many homes in other parts of the city, he said.
Allen called Tuesday "a devastating day," and said fire crews were simply overwhelmed by the speed and power of the wildfire. Conditions on the ground changed quickly as the day progressed, and by 18:30 local time the entire city was under a mandatory evacuation order.
"It's been the worst day of my career," Allen said earlier. "It's a nasty, ugly fire and it hasn't shown any forgiveness."
With the cold front expected to move into the area, with wind gusting up to 50 km/h (31 mph), Wednesday, May 4, is expected to be a more intense burning day than Tuesday.
"Everybody has given everything today to do the very best they could," Allen said. "I can categorically state that everything that was absolutely possible to protect the community was done."
"This is the biggest evacuation we have seen in the history of the province," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said.
As of early Wednesday (UTC) there are no reports of serious injuries or fatalities.
Featured image credit: Breaking (YT)