On Tuesday, the entire population of Fort McMurray, Alberta, was ordered to evacuate as an enormous wildfire swept into the Canadian oil-sands city. High winds fed the fire, the Canadian Press reports, which grew rapidly and gave residents little time to prepare to leave.
Traffic on the highways slowed to a standstill as smoke billowed over the city. “It was absolutely horrifying when we were sitting there in traffic,” one evacuee, Carol Christian, told the Press. “You look up and then you watch all the trees candle-topping…up the hills where you live and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God. We got out just in time.”
Fire chief Darby Allen said the entire neighbourhood of Beacon Hill “appears to have been lost” and the fire burned many homes in other parts of the city.
No buildings were lost in the city’s downtown area, Allen said. Despite the devastation, there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.
As of 10:30 p.m. MT, officials reported the neighbourhoods of Abasand, Wood Buffalo, Dickensfield, and Waterways saw only some damage.
No estimates were available on the number of homes and businesses that were destroyed.
Fort McMurray is situated in the Athabasca Oil Sands, which contains approximately 174 trillion barrels of bitumen, a key ingredient in the production of synthetic crude oil. According to the Washington Post, it is the single largest oil deposit in the world.
A pic of what trying to leave Fort McMurray looks like right now pic.twitter.com/ESE7bzPkx1— chester (@ccccrystal__) May 4, 2016