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Chief Darby Allen: “This fire is…a moving animal”

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Chief Darby Allen: "This fire is...a moving animal"

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the wildfire raging in Fort McMurray had consumed 10,000 hectares of land.

The blaze has resisted all efforts to suppress it and crews are utilizing all available resources to battle it, according to Bernie Schmitte, Wildfire Manager for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

Schmitte explained that it is a “very challenging fire” with many fronts and hotspots outside of the main fire, making it more difficult to control. Additional ground and air resources are currently being transported into Fort McMurray from all over Canada.

Weather conditions on Wednesday threaten to exacerbate the fire with low humidity and temperatures exceeding 30 degrees celcius.

Regional Fire Chief Darby Allen told reporters that firefighting crews had extinguished all structural fires within city limits between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

There are parts of Fort McMurray that have not been touched by the fire, but the flames will seek out those areas and try to engulf them, according to Allen. Fire crews will be working to prevent those spreads from happening.

“This is a nasty, dirty fire,” said Allen, emphasizing the importance of all evacuees remaining in place at camps and reception centres for the time being.

“We’re still in a very dangerous situation in town.”

Choking back tears, Chief Allen commented on the remarkable fact that all 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray were evacuated without any serious injuries or fatalities.

The city of Fort McMurray is now empty, with the exception of firefighting crews, who are ready to leave with approximately 30 minutes notice if necessary.

Evacuees have been instructed by the RMWB to shelter-in-place for at least the next 24 hours where the necessities of life are guaranteed.

Mayor Melissa Blake lauded the efforts of all of the camps continuing to accept evacuees and working overtime to meet their needs.

“There’s no limitation on the ability for people to get water, access to food is terrific,” said Blake, on the camps’ success in accommodating the massive influx of people on very short notice.

Any shortages of supplies will be addressed by the RMWB in partnership with provincial or federal officials as required.

Canadian Military personnel and provisions are expected to arrive by Friday, which is likely to ease some of the pressure the camps face as they reach, and in some cases exceed, capacity.

Mayor Blake shared that she has seen the full range of human emotions since the evacuation of Fort McMurray took full effect Tuesday night. From grief-stricken homeowners processing the loss of their homes and worldly possessions to the laughter of carefree young children, “I’ve seen everything,” she said.

“As we look to the future, this is still a place of strength, resiliency and vibrancy,” said Mayor Blake, responding to a question about what the wildfire means for the future of Fort McMurray and its residents.

In an emotional statement at the end of Wednesday morning’s teleconference, Chief Darby Allen took stock of the crisis so far.

“We are preparing for a bad day today, but I think it’s important to note the good things that have happened…that are continuing [to happen],” Darby said, audibly upset.

“We successfully evacuated 88,000 people. No one is hurt and no one has died.”

UPDATE (11:06 a.m.)

The RMWB has issued a boil water advisory for the entire Wood Buffalo region, including all camps currently lodging evacuees.

UPDATE (12:30 p.m.)

We are receiving confirmed reports, accompanied by video footage, of fire crews hosing down Fire Hall No. 5 near Airport Road in Fort McMurray.

That fire staton is one of the last lines of defence before the fire reaches Airport Road, bringing it dangerously close to the communities of Gregoire and Prairie Creek.

UPDATE (2:00 p.m.)

The firefighting operations centre for was moved from Fire Hall No. 5 to Nexen Long Lake near Anzac.

UPDATE (3:00 p.m.)

A northbound tanker truck caught fire along Highway 881 causing traffic delays between Lac La Biche and Conklin.

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.)

Premier Rachel Notley officially declares a state of emergency in Fort McMurray.

UPDATE (4:40 p.m.)

Reports of smoke clouds producing heat lightning with the potential to spark new spot fires.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m.)

Prairie Creek has not yet been touched by the fire and crews are making a stand. The fire is now headed south towards the airport and Saprae Creek.

Timberlea experienced 15 structure fires along Walnut Crescent, with no other active fires in the area as of this update.

All fires on the Birchwood Trails have been extinguished. There are no fires in Thickwood and residences in Gregoire are unaffected.

UPDATE (5:45 p.m.)

Two fatalities confirmed in the tanker accident on Highway 881.



Mix News will continue to bring you the latest updates on the Fort McMurray wildfire as they become available

For up-to-the-minute coverage, follow @mix1037fmnews on Twitter 



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