'My whole life is burning away' - Fort McMurray homes on fire, gas station blows up
10 Fort McMurray neighbourhoods are under mandatory evacuation; fire jumps Highway 63
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Homes have begun to burn in Fort McMurray as residents flee for safety in what has been the biggest evacuation due to fire in Alberta's history.
On Tuesday, the entire city of Fort McMurray was evacuated, including MacDonald Island, and winds are forecast to switch and increase at speeds of 25 to 50 km/h by Wednesday, according to officials.
“My whole life is burning away,” said Jenn Tremblett, who has left for Edmonton. “My home is in Gregoire (Fort McMurray neighbourhood) so it may be gone soon.
“My family is trying to get out of town.”
Tremblett said the community of Beacon Hill is on fire, after a nearby Shell gas station blew up.
“It’s very bad,” she said.
Fire officials have extended the evacuation order to 10 communities in the city, including Beacon Hill, Abasand, Waterways, Draper, Saline Creek, Grayling Terrace, downtown, Thickwood, Wood Buffalo and Dickinsfield.
Kristen Mctavish, who lives in the city’s downtown, was on her way 63 kilometres north to Noralta’s Grey Wolf Lodge, where one camp, among others, has been set up to house evacuees.
“I cried,” Mctavish said. “It’s better now because we’re actually moving somewhere, but traffic is really bad.”
Highway 63 going south was closed much of the afternoon, but reopened around 8 p.m.
Many houses in Beacon Hill and Gregoire have burned down, including the homes of Mctavish’s friends.
“Couple of my friends’ homes have burned down, and a lot of people are going north,” she said. “Buildings and businesses caught on fire. The gas station exploded.”
On Tuesday evening, a forestry spokesperson said officials are pulling out crews as it has become prime burning time, adding tomorrow is supposed to be more intense.
Mctavish said she’s a bit worried her home may burn down.
“I live close to the Gregoire and Beacon Hill area,” she said. “I hope it will be under control by then.”
More than 100 patients were safely moved from the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray as the fire bore down on the city.
According to Alberta Health Services, 73 acute and 32 continuing-care patient were moved from the hospital when officials ordered the facility evacuated.
Unseasonably hot temperatures combined with dry conditions have transformed the boreal forest in much of Alberta into a tinder box. The wildfire threat ranging from very high to extreme.
Fire officials had already warned earlier in the day that rising temperatures and low humidity could help the fire grow.
- With files from the Canadian Press