Flare-ups, thick smoke from Canadian wildfires delay residents' return

The wildfires have burned more than 2,840 square kilometers in the Fort McMurray area. (File photo: AP)

Thick smoke and a risk of flare-ups are delaying residents’ return to fire-ravaged Fort McMurray in Canada, the province of Alberta’s premier said Monday.

“There’s active fire growth on all fronts surrounding the community and a number of hotspots within the town,” Premier Rachel Notley told a nationally televised press conference.

Elsewhere in the province new forest fires broke out over the weekend for a total of 15 separate blazes, three of which are out of control, Notley said.

The wildfires have burned more than 2,840 square kilometers (1,095 square miles) in the Fort McMurray area, including approximately 400 square kilometers in just the last three days, according to the latest report from fire officials.

“This remains an active fire zone, with significant air-quality concerns that may delay recovery work and a return to the community” Notley said.

“There are hotspots surrounding Fort McMurray. Any of them could flare up when the wind changes.”

The massive blaze remains out of control as it moves eastward toward Saskatchewan province. Notley said it is now only 10 or 12 kilometers from the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

Two less threatening fires are blazing out of control about 180 kilometers northwest of Alberta’s capital of Edmonton, prompting the evacuation of 200 people from the town of Whitecourt.

In Fort McMurray, work on getting water and gas back up and running and fixing damaged infrastructure continues. Electricity has been restored.

A plan for the eventual return of residents is expected to be unveiled in the coming days.

“Work has been progressing on all these fronts, in some cases faster than expected,” Notley said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51
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