This satellite image shows smoke from wildfires burning near Fort McMurray, Alberta, on May 17, 2016. ©AFP
Direly-needed changes in the weather have favored the Canadian firefighters battling a ravenous wildfire in northern Alberta.
So far, the fire, which has been ravaging the province’s Fort McMurray region since early May, has spread across 505,000 hectares (1.2 million acres).
However, Thursday saw winds gusting in different directions, while a drizzle promised potential downpour in the region.
Alberta wildfire officer Chad Morrison said cooler weather and rain would aid efforts to get it under control, adding, “I can report that we saw a trace of rain this morning, so that’s actually helped our firefighting efforts.”
“We held the fire yesterday in all critical areas and with the lower temperatures and higher humidity we continue to see more success today,” Morrison stated.
File photo taken on May 7, 2016 shows flames and smoke rising off Highway 63 outside Fort McMurray, Alberta. ©AFP
Also on Thursday, the fire crossed into the neighboring Saskatchewan Province.
“A small finger poked into Saskatchewan,” said Steve Roberts, the executive director of Saskatchewan’s wildfire management branch.
Duane McKay, the provincial emergency management commissioner, said thick smoke from the blaze was being blown back into Alberta, confirming reports that the wind had changed its direction.
Up until now, the blaze has forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in Fort McMurray. It has also prompted the evacuation of 8,000 oil sands workers, destroyed a work camp, and prolonged a shutdown that has cut Canadian oil output by a million barrels a day.