Canadian Wildfire Convoy: 1,500 Vehicles Mobilized In Huge Evacuation Effort

A Canadian wildfire convoy continues to roll toward the area north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Canadian police and military are supervising roughly 1,500 vehicles in an attempt to transport thousands of people to safe areas south to Edmonton, according to a report by Fox News.

The region is home to the third-largest oil reserve in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Many of the people trapped north of Fort McMurray are in oil field camps. The area is mostly wilderness, with very few roads to use as escape routes.

Officials believe the raging wildfire won’t be put out soon.

The Canadian wildfire convoy effort comes just days after Tuesday’s mandatory evacuation from Fort McMurray. The province of Alberta has been under a state of emergency since Wednesday. Most of the 80,000 Fort McMurray evacuees headed south. Unfortunately, about 25,000 moved north, only to find themselves now trapped.

The convoy joins in rescue operations with an airlift that has already evacuated an estimated 8,000 people. Wildfires are notoriously unpredictable, however. The Canadian government isn’t dawdling in the hope that the blaze will stop spreading. If anything, concern is growing as well, making the Canadian wildfire convoy an urgent need.

Officials believe the fire may have been sparked by a lightening strike in a forest. No one is sure. But all agree that a combination of factors makes the situation increasingly desperate. Temperatures for the region have been unseasonably hot, said Chad Morrison, Alberta’s manager of wildfire prevention. Dry conditions have fed the fire. Firefighting resources that have already deployed include 22 air tankers, 138 pieces of heavy equipment, and over 1,100 firefighters.

Morrison says something more is needed, however.

“Let me be clear,” Morrison said. “Air tankers are not going to stop this fire. It is going to continue to push through these dry conditions until we actually get some significant rain.”

The weekend forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of rain on Saturday.

Helicopters will guide the Canadian wildfire convoy, say military officials. Because of the lack of escape routes, the convoy will be forced to roll through the devastated Fort McMurray. An estimated 1,600 homes have already been lost there. The plan is to have the choppers guide 50 vehicles at a time through the city before releasing them and guiding the next 50 vehicles. Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Sgt. John Spaans said the plan was formed because of the unpredictable fire.

“That’s why we had the helicopters,” he said, “just to make sure the motorists and responders are safe in case there’s a sudden change in fire direction. They would be able to notify everyone immediately.”

Clearing the way for the Canadian wildfire convoy, officials have blocked all intersections on the evacuation route. The officers are also on the lookout for home owners who may be anxious to check on their houses, and to keep them from doing so. Sgt. Spaans hoped the weather, fire, and road conditions would allow them to get all the vehicles off the road by Friday. Other officials gave a four day estimate.

High, hot winds have worsened the situation. On Tuesday the fire covered an estimated 29 square miles, and 10 more square miles on Wednesday. By Thursday, however, the wildfire covered an estimated 330 square miles.

Leaving before the Canadian wildfire convoy’s deployment didn’t necessarily make people safer. There have been fatalities, as previously reported in the Inquisitr. Fifteen-year-old Emily Ryan was killed in a traffic accident while fleeing Fort McMurray. Her father, Cranley, is a fire fighter.

The inferno threatens to spread, at least until the hoped-for rain comes. Estimates show the firefighting efforts have not contained the fire in any significant way. Everyone hopes, though, that the massive Canadian wildfire convoy can save thousands of lives and avoid even greater tragedy.

[Photo by Corey Hardcastle/Ministry of the Environment/Government of Saskatchewan via AP Images]