Tuesday the wildfire outside of the northern Alberta town jumped the Athabasca River and started to devour the town. As buildings started to burn authorities ordered that all residents of the town to evacuate.
Today the only people to remain in the town are emergency workers. 88 000 people have left with only thirty minutes to gather their kids, pets and precious documents. The majority left in private vehicles and some in emergency buses.
The Fort McMurray airport remained open until Wednesday for departures but was closed to civilian traffic later on Wednesday.
The hospital has been evacuated with patients moved to Edmonton which is normally a four hour drive. For those who chose to take the road south to Edmonton that time stretched for at least two more hours as vehicles choked the roadway. Accidents temporarily blocked the way as well as vehicles that ran out of gas and had to be pushed to the side of the highway.
The RCMP dispatched a fuel tanker to the area to supply those that ran out of gasoline. Gas stations had run dry.
Those people who evacuated to the north found shelter in bunkhouses at the oil sands camps.
At last count 1600 structures have been destroyed by the flames. Firefighters worked through the night and all the structure fires have been extinguished. The danger to the town is ongoing as the fire is still out of control and the high temperatures, low humidity and fierce winds create firestorms.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has pledged $2 million for the Red Cross to begin activity. PM Justin Trudeau has authorized the military to assist where they are needed.
A nearby First Nation reserve, Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, is coping with a serious wildfire. Residents may have to evacuate.
The good news, if there is any here, is that all the people fleeing the fires made it to safety. To move over 80 000 people in a few hours requires people to be at their best. And the people of northern Alberta showed just that.
The National Post
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