A massive wildfire in Alberta, Canada, has destroyed the town of Fort McMurray, forcing the evacuation of almost 90,000 people.
Some 1,600 homes and other buildings have been destroyed, according to officials, and a state of emergency has been declared in the Canadian province. The exact cause of the fire is still unknown, but the combination of extreme heat and low humidity in recent days has enabled it to spread much quicker than normal.
— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) May 6, 2016
The blaze began on Sunday and swept into the urban service area on Tuesday. The fire has since grown to consume 389 square miles and forced the largest evacuation of residents in Alberta’s history. That’s a fire big enough to cover the nation of Singapore.
CNN reports that when the evacuation began three days ago, police were escorting vehicles along the only safe route to the cities of Calgary and Edmonton in the south. The convoy has since been suspended due to the intensity of the flames, which can rise up to 200 feet on both sides of the road.
Firefighters in the region are working round the clock to fight the flames, but the sheer volume of embers and dry timber ensures that the fire will continue to burn for the foreseeable future. “You could add five times the number of firefighters,” Bill Stewart, co-director of the University of California’s Center for Fire Research and Outreach, told CNN, “but you can’t get all the embers. There’s no way to put out every ember flying over firefighters’ heads.”
— Chad Sartison (@firefighters1st) May 4, 2016
And it’s not the only fire currently blazing through the province. As many as 40 wildfires have been reported in Alberta, with five classified as “out of control.” A total of 1,110 firefighters, 145 helicopters and 22 air tankers are working to put them out.
Alberta could be in even greater danger, as it sits atop the third-largest oil reserves on the planet. As of this writing, no oil companies have reported damage to their facilities.
— RCMP Alberta (@RCMPAlberta) May 5, 2016
To learn what you can do to help the survivors of the fires, CNN has created an exhaustive list of aid organizations.