A convoy of Royal Canadian Mounted Police have begun the trip into Fort McMurray, Alberta, where police expect to evacuate as many as 45,000 people from fires that have already consumed over 200,000 acres of land.
While 80,000 people have already evacuated the region, many remain, either stranded or choosing not to abide by the formerly voluntary evacuation order. Canada’s Globe and Mail reports that 1,500 RCMP vehicles begun entering the city Friday morning, searching homes to bring people to safety. This effort follows rescue work on Thursday that saved 8,000 people stranded in areas surrounded by wildfires, unable to drive away. These individuals were airlifted out of the area.
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As of Friday morning, authorities confirmed that “more than 1,100 firefighters, 145 helicopters, 138 pieces of heavy equipment and 22 air tankers” had been deployed to right the fires.
The fire began Wednesday near the Fort McMurray airport, the product of hot and dry temperatures. Alberta announced it would be declaring a state of emergency, triggering the flight of an estimated 80,000 people. By Thursday, authorities announced that over 210,000 acres of land had been consumed by the fire. An estimated 1,600 buildings have been burned to the ground so far.
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First responders are acting to stop the fire, often without the knowledge of whether their own homes are safe. Ben Niven, the fire chief of neighboring Crossfield, Alberta, told the Calgary Sun that firefighters have faced many situations where “they do watch a lot of houses burn up,” unable to stop the fire. “The walls of fire in the forest are right there, all they can see is orange and black smoke,” he added, asking for thoughts and prayers for his men.
Firefighters are also meeting some resistance from locals who refuse to evacuate, the Sun reported Thursday. “We still have some people hanging around and we are trying to ensure everyone’s safety…They are not giving us a reason. They are just refusing to go,” Sgt. Jack Poitras told reporters.