WATCH: It’s hard to imagine after the horrific pictures we’ve seen for the last two days, but the Fort McMurray fire situation is worse today. Tess van Straaten as the latest.
A catastrophic and out-of-control wildfire continues to ravage Northern Alberta, consuming a large swath of land.
Despite the massive effort to contain it, the Fort McMurray fire ballooned eight times larger from overnight Wednesday night to Thursday morning — supercharged by high winds — to 85,000 hectares in size.
“First and foremost we’re worried about safety,” says Dale Bendfeld, acting director of community services and policing. “Our primary task is preservation of life. This is a very large, very serious fire we are working with.”
Without significant rain, officials fear they have no chance of putting the fire out.
The inferno’s become so powerful, it’s created its own lightening in the massive plume of smoke and once again, the evacuation zone had to be expanded.
Evacuation zone expands and hundreds of of people at evacuation centre forced to move farther south
Three communities south of the city, including an evacuation centre in Anzac, Alberta, had to flee further south Wednesday night to get out of the fire’s path.
“I thought it was safe here, so we’ll go to Edmonton,” says Fort McMurray evacuee Donna Guillamot. “It’s very stressful and you don’t know what’s burned and what’s not burned or when you can go back and now you’re sitting here and all you see is red flames. It’s pretty scary.”
The regional emergency operations centre, which had just relocated to Anzac from the Fort McMurray airport, was also forced to move to Lac la Biche — more than 200 kilometers away, .
“This is going to be for the long-term,” says Lac la Biche mayor Omer Moghrabi. “We’re still accepting donations. People will have to relocate.”
Alberta declares province-wide state of emergency
With the situation so severe, Alberta has now declared a province-wide state of emergency.
“We have a lot of uncertainty as these fires continue to burn,” says Alberta premier Rachel Notley. “To those people who have been displaced from your homes, I want you to know we have your back. You will be supported.”
In just two days, Canadians donated $11 million to relief efforts and Ottawa is now promising to match donations.
“The government will also be matching individual charitable donations made to the Canadian Red Cross in support of disaster relief,” prime minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons on Thursday, receiving a round of applause.
Back in Alberta, officials are working to air-lift up to 25,000 oil sands workers trapped in work camps north of Fort McMurray.
The early cost estimate for the disaster is a staggering $9 billion but it could be much higher as the fire continues to rage.