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Thousands Flee Fires in Alberta, Canada

A Canadian Joint Operations Command aerial photo shows wildfires near neighborhoods in Fort McMurray, Alberta. (CF Operations)

A raging forest fire in the Canadian province of Alberta forced the evacuation of 88,000 residents this week.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls the damage “absolutely devastating.”

Fort McMurray is in the northern part of Alberta, which is a province in western Canada.

The area around Fort McMurray is known for its tar sands from which oil can be taken. It is the third-largest oil reserve in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

The fire started Sunday and is moving rapidly around the city.

Some people are evacuating south towards the large city of Edmonton. Others are going north toward the work camps close to the oil sands.

Residents report 15-foot-high walls of flame. The skies are gray with smoke and soot.

The Associated Press news agency reports that the fire is especially hard to control because Fort McMurray is warmer and drier than usual for this time of year.

About 1,600 homes and other structures have been destroyed or damaged. Hospitals have been closed and evacuated.

The Alberta Emergency Management Agency says the downtown area of the city is safe, so far.

The evacuation has not been easy. Some cars ran out of gas on the road. Some gas stations were damaged by the fire.

Gasoline trucks were called in to help some motorists refuel on the side of the road.

Many of the oil producers that remove oil from the sands say they will slow production during the fire. Some staff have been evacuated.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says there is little danger of the oil sands burning as a result of the fire. Much of the oil-rich material is located underground.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell wrote this story based on reporting from the Associated Press. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Are you following the fire in Alberta? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

soot – n. a black powder that is formed when something (such as wood or coal) is burned

evacuate – v. to remove (someone) from a dangerous place

devastate – v. to destroy much or most of (something) : to cause great damage or harm to (something)

raging – adj. very wild and violent