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A Wildfire Has Forced Out Hundreds of Residents in Canada’s Oil Sands Hub of Fort McMurray

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Vancouver, British Columbia (AP) — Hundreds of residents in four neighborhoods in the southern end of Canada’s oil sand hub of Fort McMurray, Alberta, were ordered to evacuate with a wildfire threatening the community, authorities said Tuesday.

The Rural Municipality of Wood Buffalo said residents in Beacon Hill, Abasand, Prairie Creek and Grayling Terrace needed to leave by 4 p.m.

An emergency evacuation warning remained in place for the rest of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas.

The rural municipality said the residents in the four neighborhoods were being ordered out to clear room for crews to fight the fire, which had moved to within 13 kilometers (8 miles) of the city.

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Fort McMurray has a population of about 68,000, and a wildfire there in 2016 destroyed 2,400 homes.

“It’s very important for me to know that this fire activity is very different than the 2016 Horse River wildfire. We have an abundance of resources and we are well positioned to respond to this situation,” Regional Fire Chief Jody Butz said.

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Kristen Leer, a Fort Nelson, B.C. evacuee, stops for a photo at the North Peace Arena in Fort St. John, B.C., on Monday, May 13, 2024. Leer said as a quadriplegic she is impressed with how the province is treating people with disabilities.Wildfires are forcing more people to evacuate their homes in dry and windy northeastern B.C. (Jesse Boily /The Canadian Press via AP)

In the northeast of the neighboring province of British Columbia, areas subject to mandatory evacuation increased, with the latest order Monday for Doig River First Nation and the Peace River Regional District as a fire threatened nearby.

Forecasts on Tuesday called for wind that could blow a growing wildfire closer to Fort Nelson. Emergency workers had been phoning as many of the estimated 50 residents still in town and urging them to go.

The British Columbia Wildfire Service said the blaze had grown to 84 square kilometers (32 miles). On Monday, it was about 53 square kilometers (21 miles) in size. A photo by the service shows the billowing blaze spreading in a vast wooded area.

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The community of about 4,700 and the neighboring Fort Nelson First Nation have been under an evacuation order since Friday.

Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Mayor Rob Fraser said one drawback of the evacuation is the challenge for essential staff, including firefighters, to find food.

“This is really going to be weather dependent, and so far the weather has been holding with us,” Fraser said of the wildfire in a video posted to Facebook.

In 2023, Canada experienced a record number of wildfires that caused choking smoke in parts of the U.S. and forced more than 235,000 Canadians to evacuate their communities. At least four firefighters died.

Several wildfires are burning across western Canada.

A fire close to Cranberry Portage in northwest Manitoba forced about 550 residents from their homes.

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