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Fort McMurray wildfire grows to 101,000 hectares

Even if the Fort McMurray area gets rain, it will reportedly be weeks and weeks before the fire is put out. It’s reached 101,000 hectares in size and Chad Morrison with Alberta Wildfire says no amount of fire prevention measures could stop it.

“With the nature of this fire and the dangerous conditions we have, no size of firebreak would hold this fire from doing anything; this fire has jumped the Athabasca River, which is over a kilometre wide. It has not only challenged firefighters, there’s no tankers that we can put at this thing to stop it at this point.”

Those resources are instead being used to try and protect the city. The fire grew further to the southeast last night and reached Anzac, and so far 12 structures have been destroyed. There is some good news, however, as shifting winds are expected to move the blaze northeast into the Forest Protection Area and away from populated zones.

In order to avoid any resources being taken away from the wildfire, a fire ban has been implemented across the province. Premier Rachel Notley is also asking Albertans to avoid heading into the woods unnecessarily.

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“We’re asking people who might otherwise be recreationally planning to go out into the forest on the weekend to rethink that. Off-road vehicles can sometimes inadvertently spark a fire when we have the conditions that we have now.”

The province has approved $100 million in emergency funding to help residents displaced by the fire in Fort McMurray. Cash cards of $1,250 will be given to adults and $500 for dependants, with a total of 80,000 expected to be given out.

7,000 evacuees were flown out of oil and gas camps north of Fort McMurray yesterday, and it’s hoped another 5,500 will make it out by air today. Another 500 people are driving out in vehicle convoys, escorted by the RCMP and the Department of National Defence.

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