Canadian Convoy Waits to Flee Wildfire 05/06 06:37
FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta (AP) -- Canadian officials waited for dawn Friday to
see whether it will be safe for a convoy of evacuees to get out of the
fire-ravaged Fort McMurray area.
Gasoline tankers were being sent in to top off fuel tanks for a drive to the
Meanwhile, a mass airlift of evacuees was expected to resume Friday morning,
a day after 8,000 people were moved out.
In all, more than 80,000 people have left Fort McMurray, in the heart of
Canada's oil sands, and officials say no deaths or injuries related to the fire
have been reported.
Crews battling the fire got a little help with temperatures forecast to fall
overnight to 16C (61F) from the low 30s.
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.
"Let me be clear: air tankers are not going to stop this fire," he said. "It
is going to continue to push through these dry conditions until we actually get
some significant rain."
Environment Canada forecast a 40 percent chance of showers in the area on
Homes and businesses have been destroyed, and that poses a particular
problem for temporary foreign workers whose permits are linked to specific
Marco Luciano, Albert spokesman for the Coalition for Migrant Workers Rights
Canada, foreign workers generally are hired by various lodges and restaurants,
or to provide childcare for local families.
At least 18 people have made it to Edmonton, Luciano said Thursday.
"They evacuated only with their working uniform on," he said. "They had no
time to pick up anything from their homes, and they came directly to Edmonton
yesterday ... They don't know what to do."
Fort McMurray is surrounded by wilderness, and there are essentially only
two ways out via road.
Aided by high winds, scorching heat and low humidity, the fire grew from 75
square kilometers (29 square miles) Tuesday to 100 square kilometers (39 square
miles) on Wednesday, but by Thursday it was almost nine times that --- at 850
square kilometers (330 square miles). That's an area roughly the size of
Calgary, Alberta's largest city.
Unseasonably hot temperatures combined with dry conditions have transformed
the boreal forest in much of Alberta into a tinder box. Morrison said the cause
of the fire hasn't been determined, but he said it started in a remote forested
area and could have been ignited by lightning.
The region has the third-largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi
Arabia and Venezuela.