A massive wildfire has forced all 88,000 people to flee the western Canadian oil city of Fort McMurray, burned down 1,600 structures and is now threatening its airport and communities well south of the town.
The fires got so bad that even officials on the scene were forced to evacuate their make-shift emergency operations center.
The winds also pushed flames toward the local airport, with webcam images showing black smoke engulfing the airport.
As flames fanned south, officials also issued mandatory evacuation orders for the Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation communities located about 50 km south of Fort McMurray.
"This is a nasty and dirty fire," Fire Chief Darby Allen of Fort McMurray fire department said. "There are certainly areas within the city that have not been burned, but this fire will look for them and it will find them and it will want to take them. And our challenge today is to prevent."
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The province declared a state of emergency for what was shaping up to be Canada's costliest natural disaster.
But it’s not just gutted dreams and gloom coming out of the terrible wildfires. The devastating time is also showing people and communities coming together in the most overwhelming way.
The city of Edmonton declared the Expo Centre, with the ability to house 5,000 people, as the official reception center for residents fleeing wildfires in Fort McMurray.
“Anything that we can do to help the city of Fort McMurray through this challenging time, it’s a stressful upheaval, we will do that,” the center’s public relations manager Lori Cote said. “We’re working directly with the Red Cross so what is needed we’ll do our best to provide until such time that it’s no longer needed.”
The Guru Nanak Sikh Society in Edmonton has compiled a list of more than two dozen spare bedrooms, basement suites and motel rooms available free of charge for Fort McMurray evacuees.
A resident of An Edmonton created a website where locals can register space available to house Fort McMurray evacuees and where evacuees needing a place to stay can register for help.
The Al Rashid Mosque opened their doors for evacuees in need of a place to stay.
2000 waters, 300 apples, 300 oranges, 300 liters of fuel, pet food, baby food and still going strong. We got lots more! We are here to help.— Big D's Delivery (@BigDsDelivery) May 4, 2016
My husband is on highway 881. Before Conklin he said ppl were out on the roads holding up signs welcoming ppl to their homes. ???? #ymmfire— lois quagmire (@loisquagmire) May 4, 2016
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Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters