The compulsory evacuation order was passed late on Wednesday night to cover the outlying communities of Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation, which are about 50 kilometres south of Fort McMurray. RCMP officers are going to homes to make sure that everyone got out of their communities.
More than 80,000 residents have fled their homes as the fires moved into the city core area. Although entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed, no injuries have been reported so far.
The Beacon Hill Suburb of the city’s south end has suffered the worst, with almost 80 per cent of the homes destroyed. Houses were also burnt down in Timberlea, Abasand and Waterways suburbs.
Fire chief Darby Allen told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp that the wooded areas of the city were still burning. But Allen said he’s worried about the plumes of smoke he sees outside his window and worried about the wind and its direction. “It could be even more devastating unfortunately,” he said.
Firefighters are working to save the only bridge across the Athabasca River and Highway 63, which is the only route to the city from the south.
Ralph Goodale, Canada’s public safety minister, said in a statement that he was watching the situation with “great concern” and said “situation is fluid and evolving rapidly” He noted the federal government is monitoring the situation carefully, including the military.
Defence minister Harjit Sajjan, confirmed that a formal request for assistance has been received from the Alberta government. “We’re making all assets available, whatever the province and the emergency operations center assesses that they need,” he said.
Alberta premier Rachel Notley called it the biggest evacuation in the history of the province.
Fort McMurray is the heartland of Canada’s oil industry. The Alberta oil sands contain the third largest reserves of crude in the world, just behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
Suncor, the largest operator in the Fort McMurray oil sands, said it was cutting production at its main facility so as “to allow employees and their families to get to safety.