Officials say the Fort McMurray wildfire has slowed, but continues to burn out of control.
A drop in temperature gave fire crews a small break overnight Thursday, but low humidity and high winds are expected to keep the situation dangerous heading into the weekend.
An army of more than 1,100 firefighters, including those in dozens of helicopters and air tankers, continue to face hellish conditions battling this massive blaze.
Regional fire chief Darby Allen took to social media early Friday morning to send a message to residents.
“We’re still here, we’re still battling. Things have calmed down a in the city a little bit, but guys are out as we speak fighting fires, trying to protect your property. The beast is still up, it’s surrounding the city, and we’re here doing our very best for you.”
Chad Morrison, a spokesman for Alberta Forestry says fire crews will not be able to stop the blaze. He says only “significant rain” can put an end to this disaster.
Fort McMurray’s water treatment plant briefly went offline on Thursday but is now operating again and a team of experts was being brought in from Red Deer to ensure it remained functional. A boil water advisory remained in effect for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo except for area camps that get water from EPCOR, or any provider other than the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. Also, the boil water advisory excludes Fort McKay.
The government issued a news release to say 18 new wildfires were sparked on Thursday and that 49 wildfires were burning across the province as of 6 p.m. Seven of those were considered out of control.
The province said the provincial state of emergency remained in effect for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo fire crews and that public safety in the Fort McMurray area remained the key priority.
Alberta Wildfire manager Chad Morrison said the Fort McMurray wildfire was still estimated to be about 85,000 hectares in size and that it was still moving in a southeast direction.
The wildfire raging in and around the northeastern Alberta community of Fort McMurray grew from 10,000 to 85,000 hectares between Wednesday and Thursday, thanks to winds upwards of 70 km/h.
The community remains blocked off with road closures on Highways 63 and Highway 881, and on Thursday officials said there is still no specific timeline on when people will be able to return home.
By Karen Bartko, David Shum and Phil Heidenreich – Global News