FORT MCMURRAY, AB. (NEWS 1130) – Thousands of families taking shelter north of fire-ravaged Fort McMurray spent the wee hours of the morning lined up on the highway in a huge convoy, ready to drive straight out of the smoke and flames to safety.
The cars were escorted by RCMP which is hoping to move about 1,500 cars — 50 at a time — through the city on Highway 63 to a point south of the community.
There is nothing but a charred landscape left behind as the massive wildfire continues to grow, now reportedly 100,000 hectares in size. Entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to bare skeletons of structures and piles of ash.
The convoy, which is being escorted with both ground and air support, is making its way south to Edmonton and Calgary from the oilsands work camps unable to support evacuees any longer. It will be travelling through active fire zones.
The weather has not been on the side of crews who have been working non-stop to try and gain the upper hand. There has been low humidity and high winds which are expected to keep the situation dangerous.
“Things have calmed down in the city a little bit but guys are out fighting fires, trying to protect property. The beast is still up, it’s surrounding the city and we’re doing our very best for you. Please take care,” says Regional Fire Chief Darby Allen.
LISTEN: Chris Byrne with our sister station in Fort McMurray speaking with NEWS 1130’s Mike Lloyd
More than 80,000 people have been forced from the community.
The premier can’t say exactly how many homes have been lost but says at least 1,600 structures have been destroyed. Crews say it could be a while until people can return, but no one will give a timeline because they say it would be ‘inappropriate’ at this time.
The federal government has pledged to match donations made to the Canadian Red Cross.
Rogers is giving free long distance/texting to Fort McMurray until May 17th and we are partnering with the Red Cross. If you would like to donate $10, text the word FIRES to 45678.