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Canadian Officials Say Wildfire Conditions 'Extreme'

  • VOA News

A Canadian Joint Operations Command aerial photo shows wildfires near Fort McMurray, Alberta, in this image posted on twitter on May 5, 2016, courtesy CF Operations.

A Canadian Joint Operations Command aerial photo shows wildfires near Fort McMurray, Alberta, in this image posted on twitter on May 5, 2016, courtesy CF Operations.

Entire communities continue to evacuate to escape the raging wildfires sweeping through the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, in Alberta, Canada.

The Alberta government declared a state of emergency and ordered residents to evacuate the communities of Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Mackenzie County and Fort McMurray First Nation, an aboriginal reservation. By Wednesday the wildfires had forced more than 80,000 people to flee their homes.

A massive mobilization operation is underway as emergency crews battle a total of 49 wildfires, seven of which are out of control. More than 1,110 firefighters, 145 helicopters, 138 pieces of heavy equipment and 22 air tankers are battling the wildfires, which have torched at least 1,600 homes.

Officials describe the fire conditions as "extreme" and the weather is not cooperating. The wildfires are being fueled by winds of 25-40 kilometers per hour.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament the wildfires are "nothing short of terrifying," and said the evacuation is the largest in Alberta's history. Trudeau told called on Canadians to support each other "at this difficult time" and added the federal government will match individual charitable donations to the Red Cross.

The wildfires, caused by unseasonably hot temperatures and dry conditions, are near Canada's oil sands, the third largest oil reserves in the world.

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