EDMONTON, Alberta — For an inferno deemed “out of control” and 0% contained, firefighters are actually optimistic.
That’s because several bits of good news are on the horizon: The weather is starting to cooperate. The blaze is headed to sparsely populated areas. And firefighters from across Canada are suiting up to join the battle.
The Fort McMurray wildfire in Alberta has already torched 400,000 acres — half the size of Rhode Island. But that’s far better than the roughly 500,000 acres officials feared would be gone by now.
“We’re very happy we’ve held the fire better than expected,” Alberta fire official Chad Morrison said. “We hope to see continued success over the next few days. For us this is great firefighting weather.”
The slowdown of the fire is the best news Canadian officials have shared since the fire started May 1.
And the record-high temperatures that scorched northern Alberta last week will dip to below average and stay in the mid-50s through Thursday, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
But the fire is still 0% contained and burning “out of control,” the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry department said.
“We may be turning a corner, but it’s too early to celebrate,” said Ralph Goodale, federal minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. “This beast is an extraordinarily difficult problem.”
Inferno moves east
After forcing more than 90,000 people to flee their homes in Alberta, the blaze now is heading east toward Saskatchewan province.
“We’re working closely and collaboratively with the Saskatchewan government to assist them with their preparations,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said.
Luckily, the path is sparsely populated — unlike the Fort McMurray area, which has already lost more than 1,600 homes and other buildings.
Residents won’t be allowed back home for quite a while. In the meantime, all Canadian public schools will accept evacuated children.
Notley said she will visit Fort McMurray with some journalists to assess the devastation Monday.
“There will be some dramatic images coming from media over the next couple of days,” she said.
Offers from Quebec, Russia
The mammoth blaze has posed a colossal challenge to the 500 firefighters, 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers on the scene.
So firefighters from as far east as Quebec and New Brunswick will join the battle this week.
Even Russia has offered to send aircraft to help fight the fire, the country’s state-run Sputnik News agency said.
Canadian authorities are considering the proposal, Sputnik said.