Cooling temperatures and light rain have officials optimistic they have reached a turning point on getting a handle on a massive wildfire that has devastated parts of Canada’s Oil sands town of Ft McMurray.
The huge smoke plume continues to drift into the United States, with its southern edge expected to reach Northern California Tuesday.
More than 80,000 people have left Ft McMurray in the heart of Canada’ Oil sands, where the wildfire burned 1,600 homes and other buildings.
Gas has been turned off, the power grid is damaged and water is not drinkable. Officials there said there is no timeline to return residents to the city, but the provincial government is sending in a team Monday to do preliminary planning.
With cooler temperatures forecast for the next 4 days, an Alberta fire official said firefighters should be able to put out hot spots. And it has allowed them to further protect Ft. McMurray. He said they are making great progress but it is too early to celebrate.
Officials completed the transport of 25,000 residents out of work camps north of the city after police oversaw a procession of thousands of vehicles Friday and Saturday, and a mass airlift of thousands of evacuees was also employed from the oil mine airfields. The bulk of the city’s evacuees moved south after Tuesday’s mandatory evacuation order, but 25,000 evacuees moved north and were housed in camps normally used for Oil sands workers.
No deaths or injuries have been reported from the wildfire itself.
The images of Fort McMurray are one of devastation, torched, scorched homes and virtually whole neighborhoods burned to the ground.
The fire and mass evacuation has forced a about 25% of Canada’s Crude Oil output offline and was expected to impact an economy already hurt by the fall in Oil prices.
The Alberta Oil sands have the 3rd-largest reserves of Oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Its workers largely live in Ft. McMurray, a former frontier outpost-turned-city whose residents largely come from elsewhere in Canada.
Ft McMurray’s Fire Chief asked for the patience of residents who are eager to find out if their homes are still standing. “We are really working hard on that, it’s a complicated process, what’s damaged, what’s left,” he said . “We really will get that to you as soon as we possibly can.”
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