Canada fire: "In no way is this under control"

Wildfire now covers an area the size of Cavan

state, emergency, canada, alberta, declared, destroyed,

Screenshot - Chad Sartison via Twitter

A wildfire that is raging across the province of Alberta is due to become Canada's costliest natural disaster later today, after reaching the size of County Cavan.

The blaze, which has forced the evacuation of 88,000 people from the city of Fort McMurray, doubled in size on Saturday to around 494,000 acres, according to firefighters.

It could reach 700,000 acres on Sunday, an area greater the Limerick City and County combined.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale warned that the situation in the parched Alberta oil sands region was "unpredictable and dangerous".

"This remains a big, out of control, dangerous fire," he added.

"In no way is this fire under control," added Alberta premier Rachel Notley.

Entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to ash and many of the families living in the city lost everything other than the few small items.

Tina Lewdrew escaped the fire, and is now safe in a town three hours from her home.

Officials said the inferno is being propelled by high winds northeast towards neighbouring Saskatchewan province.

The tinder-dry forests that are fuelling the fire also surround an oil sands facility, which some officials fear could be under threat.

About half the country's oil output - half a million barrels-a-day - have been taken offline as a result.

But some experts said they were confident the Suncor Energy facility would not be at risk as it was designed to cope with forest fires.

Chad Morrison, the province's manager of wildfire prevention, said: "They are clear of vegetation and trees ... they also have highly trained industrial fire departments that know how to respond to these incidents."

 

Thousands have been seeking shelter at receptions centres in Lac La Biche and other towns south of Fort McMurray.

Elsewhere in Alberta, more than 1,400 firefighters, about 133 helicopters and more than 27 air tankers have been fighting other fires across the province.