WATCH ABOVE: More than 1,600 homes destroyed in horrific Fort McMurray fire while helicopters try to rescue those trapped behind the fire line. Tess van Straaten reports.
The images are hard to watch, as people frantically flee a fierce and out-of-control wildfire in Fort McMurray which is destroying everything in its path.
“We only have what we have on our backs,” one crying evacuee told reporters as flames shot into the air behind her.
Tens of thousands of people faced a wall of flames along the highway as they tried to escape with their lives.
The entire Northern Alberta city, which has a population of 80,000 people, had to be evacuated on short notice after a fire burning since Sunday took a tragic and terrifying turn.
“It was scary, very scary,” says Fort McMurray worker Eric Lavallee. “It’s like something you’d see out of the movies. The bank was on fire when we were driving in. The trailer park that was there is gone, the Super 8’s gone.”
Chilling video taken by fire fighters Wednesday morning shows entire neighbourhoods totally wiped out, just the shells of burnt out cars and some singed trees are all that’s left.
Officials say at least 1,600 homes have been destroyed and more than 10,000 hectares burned so far.
“This is the worst day of my career,” says Fort McMurray Fire Chief Darby Allen. “The people here are devastated, everyone is devastated — the entire community is devastated.”
But the catastrophic blaze continued to grow Wednesday, the evacuation zone had to be expanded and officials feared the worst after the fire jumped the river.
“We expect it to be a worse fire day than it was yesterday,” Chad Morrison of Alberta Wildlife Prevention told a briefing on Wednesday. “With the winds and with hot dry conditions, fire fighters will continue to be challenged all day today.”
Crews even had to hose down the fire station and command centre on edge of town to try and prevent more destruction in this city under siege.
“This is not a static situation,” public safety minister Ralph Goodale told reporters. “It is evolving as we speak.”
Helicopters are being used to evacuate people stuck behind the fire line and prime minister Justin Trudeau is pledging financial and military support.
“Canada’s a country where we look out for our neighbours,” Trudeau says.
As Canadians from coast to coast watch in horror, people who call Fort McMurray home are wondering if they will have anything to return home to once the fire fight is over.