With a mass evacuation underway in Fort McMurray, word now that the city is taking significant damage from a raging wildfire.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which contains Fort McMurray, says several areas have suffered damage, with Beacon Hill the worst hit.
Alberta Emergency Management tells Global News that flames have consumed a number of structures, though it’s still unclear how many.
At least one Super-8 hotel has gone up in flames, and residents have reported hearing explosions coming from gas stations as they fled the town.
Wild Rose Party leader Brian Jean told Global his own home has been destroyed by the fire.
Waves of evacuation orders came throughout the afternoon – with the entire town being told to pack up and flee at 6:20 this evening.
At least 53,000 people have already been forced out of their homes as an aggressive wildfire bears down on the community.
Alberta Health Services has confirmed the city’s hospital has been evacuated, with more than 100 patients now under the care of a provincial team.
More than 80,000 people live in the community at the heart of Canada’s oil sector.
Pictures and video emerging from the region paint a hellish picture, with long lines of cars driving through smoke, ash, and sparks as fires rage along the side of the road.
Alberta Forestry tells Global News 150 firefighters are on scene battling what are described as “explosive conditions.”
While there have been several close calls, there are no reports of injuries yet.
Help on the way
Officials have requested military assistance through the province, though it could be several days before it arrives.
Fire crews from Edmonton have also been dispatched to the region to try and help, and are expected to arrive early tomorrow morning.
The Alberta Red Cross has also mobilized, and is coordinating with the province on how to help. Donations to the Alberta Cred Cross can be made on their website.
B.C. based Coulson Flying Tankers has also sent a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter to help battle the blaze.
People from far and wide want to help, too
A community Facebook page – with upwards of 18,000 likes – is offering assistance to people who have fled Fort McMurray.
It’s called the ‘Fort McMurray Evacuee Open Source Help Page.’
There’s a wide array of offerings: from clothes and food for babies, to places for people to stay.
Some are even offering to house dogs, cats, horses and livestock.
Hundreds of people from West Edmonton to Kelowna willing to give what they can to assist the thousands who have fled the fires in Fort McMurray.
One Vancouver woman suggests coming to stay at her place to turn the situation into a beautiful vacation.
She’s offering shelter at her home, located near a SkyTrain station.
People who are in need of help are asked to ‘like’ the page, and then private message those willing to lend a hand.
LISTEN: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley makes a statement on the fires
Mayor Melissa Blake of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo says the fire ballooned overnight, to twice the size.
“It’s estimated to be about 2,600 hectares versus the 1285 that we had yesterday.”
Blake says the fire’s explosive growth isn’t surprising considering the hot recent weather.
“We are a community that is surrounded by boreal forest” she says, “and we have got tremendous dryness in the environment right now.”
With files from Morgan Smith