Fort McMurray evacuation creates surreal scene as wildfire grows
Drivers pass through burned ruins of their city as they head south
Thousands of families are being escorted south through Fort McMurray, Alta., after seeking refuge from the growing wildfire in oilsands camps.
The evacuees have had to pass through burned sections of their city in order to find shelter somewhere to the south.
More than 88,000 people have been evacuated from the region.
Many people have ended up in evacuation centres in Lac La Biche or in Edmonton, 430 kilometres away. The Bold Center in Lac La Biche, seen below, is one such shelter.
Others headed to Conklin, Alta., where this family is staying in the Christina Lake campground.
Jennifer and Timothy, who came to Alberta from Nigeria last year, have "no idea what comes next." Timothy, 13, will be attending a local Edmonton school starting Monday, until things can be worked out.
They spent two nights sleeping in the car before leaving town, in case the fire got out of hand.
Giovanni Marcoo, 63, watched his house burn down just days after he paid off his mortgage.
"It was like watching all my hard work, work I did for my family, turn into dust."
Donation centres are providing food and supplies to help.
Residents of Fort McMurray sort through items brought to a donation centre in Wandering River, Alta.
Organizations stepped up to care for pets
The Bold Centre in Lac la Biche is caring for the pets of evacuees.
Edmonton peace officers Kara (left) and Marianne are keeping an eye on pets — including dogs, cats, bunnies and chinchillas — for a few hours before they are transported to a more permanent facility across town. All the dogs get a walk each day.
Battles with the flames have been continuous for days.
Firefighters have arrived from across the province to relieve exhausted colleagues and to try to prevent further damage to the city.
Here, RCMP officers wear gas masks to cope with the smoke.
The wildfire caused a mandatory evacuation of Fort McMurray.
The flames burned through multiple neighbourhoods, and on May 6 portions of the city were still considered at risk.
The evacuation began slowly Tuesday, but intensified into the night.
Authorities told residents in specific neighbourhoods to leave their homes Tuesday, but by evening the entire population was asked to leave the city.
Fort McMurray resident Crystal Maltais buckled in her daughter, Mckennah Stapley, as they prepare to leave Conklin for Lac La Biche.
With only 2 roads leading out of Fort McMurray, traffic became gridlocked.
Vehicles jammed Highway 63, which leads south toward Anzac and Edmonton or to Lac La Biche in the east.
Those who left later not only faced the traffic but an encroaching fire, which in many places came right to the edge of the roads.
Many neighbourhoods were left in ruins.
Almost all of the homes in the Waterways neighbourhood were destroyed, and nearby Beacon Hill was heavily damaged, with many houses reduced to rubble.
The fire has destroyed 1,600 buildings in Fort McMurray, and burned more than 100,000 hectares with the potential to double in size by the end of May 7.
Here, an RCMP officer surveys the destruction within the city.
Firefighters still have difficult work ahead.
"Once a fire like this is up and running, the only things that are going to stop it is if the weather changes or if it runs out of fuel to burn up," said Mike Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.