You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Wildfire spreads to area 3X Sydney's size

dpadpa 5/05/2016

The Fort McMurray fire, which is burning for a third day, grew from about 10,000 hectares to 85,000 hectares in just 24 hours.

A catastrophic wildfire in western Canada has spread to an area more than three times the size of Sydney, engulfing whole neighbourhoods and cutting off evacuees in camps and shelters.

All 88,000 residents have been forced to flee Fort McMurray in Alberta as over a thousand firefighters battle to control a total of 49 wildfires.

Many fear there will be nothing left of their homes after the flames are extinguished.

"Homes have been destroyed. Neighbourhoods have gone up in flames," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Parliament on Thursday.

The Fort McMurray fire, which burned for a third day on Thursday in Canada's oil sands heartland, grew from about 10,000 hectares to 85,000 hectares in just 24 hours.

The fire is driving one of the largest evacuations in North America in recent memory, said Bill Stewart, co-director of the University of California's Centre for Fire Research and Outreach at the University of California, Berkeley.

With few exceptions in the United States, an entire town hasn't been threatened on this scale for more than 100 years, he said.

Trudeau said images of people fleeing the fire around the municipality of Fort McMurray while fire raged around their cars was "nothing short of terrifying."

Fire chief Darby Allen said there had been no deaths reported since the fire broke out on Tuesday, fanned by high winds blowing in hot, dry conditions.

Canadian officials have evacuated 8,000 people from work camps north of devastated Fort McMurray by air, and hope to move thousands more via a highway convoy on Friday if it's safe.

The Alberta 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 49 wildfires, with seven considered out of control.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers went door-to-door to make sure everyone in the affected communities got out and brought cans of petrol to help stranded drivers along clogged highways reach the nearest petrol stations.

Most stations are limiting customers to a maximum of 50 litres of fuel, and there are reports of four hour waits. There are also reports that food is becoming scarce.

Thousands of evacuees have sought shelter in camps for oil sands workers north of the city and some oil sands operations have been shut down to accommodate the evacuees.

Thousands more have taken shelter in communities such as Lac La Biche and Edmonton, about 450 kilometres south of Fort McMurray.

The fire remains wrapped around the western and southern edges of the city and no rain clouds are expected around Fort McMurray until late Saturday, with 40 per cent chance of showers, according to online forecasts by Environment Canada.

Trudeau has announced the government would match all individual donations to Red Cross relief efforts for Fort McMurray.

"The outpouring of good will and compassion from Canadians right across the country has not only been inspirational, it has been entirely characteristic of who we are and the fundamental human values we share as Canadians," he said.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon