Fort McMurray evacuees scramble to safety as fire destroys homes
The word came out of nowhere afternoon in Fort McMurray, Alberta — get out.
Wildfire on the edge of town had blown in on a hot, dry wind and soaring temperatures. The fire quickly spread out of control — jumping Highway 63 and raging through grass, trees and suburban homes.
Tens of thousands of residents were forced to flee after a mandatory evacuation order was issued for the entire city — affecting over 80,000 people.
On May 3, the day of the fire, Fire Chief Darby Allen stated the entire neighbourhood of Beacon Hill has been lost to the wildfire and many other homes have been burned in other parts of the city. Allen also stated that the fire crew were overwhelmed with the speed and power of the wildfire.
It is to date the largest fire evacuation in Alberta's history. On The Current, Fire Chief Darby Allen said he'd never dealt with a fire with this kind of impact. The day the fire broke, Allen spoke publicly. "It's been the worst day of my career," he said. "It's a nasty, ugly fire and it hasn't shown any forgiveness."
The regional hospital was evacuated, the Clearwater Trailer Park was reduced to smoldering rubble. Neighbourhoods like Thickwood, Dickensfield, Timberlea, Wood Buffalo and Waterways were left empty and exposed to the fire's destruction.
Forestry officials are warning the worst of the fire is not over with temperatures reaching 30 C, low humidity and strong winds.
Guests in this segment:
- Briar Stewart, CBC reporter working on the Fort McMurray story.
- Darby Allen, Wood Buffalo fire chief.
- Jeff Peddle. Fort McMurray resident living downtown where he manages a 500-unit apartment building.
- Kim Clemens, evacuated condo yesterday afternoon in Fort McMurray.
- Dale Bendfeld, acting director of community services and policing for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. He is in the regional emergency operations centre in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
- Sarah MacDonald, Fort McMurrary resident en route to Beaumont with family and pets.
- Suk Sandhu, Fort McMurray oil and gas worker. We reached at Brookside Camp.
- Chris Vandenbreekel, news director of Mix 103.7, a radio station in Fort McMurray that is currently off the air because of the evacuation.
This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath, Vancouver network producer Anne Penman and Calgary network producer, Michael O'Halloran.