Canada hopes cooler weather aids battle with Alberta wildfire

Mon May 9, 2016 5:00am EDT
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By Liz Hampton and Rod Nickel

LAC LA BICHE, Alberta May 9 (Reuters) - Canadian firefighters looked to cooler weather on Monday to help with their battle against the country's most destructive wildfire in recent memory, as officials sought to gauge the damage to oil sands boomtown Fort McMurray.

The fire, which started on May 1, spread so quickly that the community's 88,000 inhabitants barely had time to leave and whole neighborhoods were destroyed.

"This is great firefighting weather, we can really get in here and get a handle on this fire, and really get a death grip on it," Alberta fire official Chad Morrison said on Sunday.

The wildfire scorching through Canada's oil sands region in northeast Alberta had been expected to double in size on Sunday, but light rains and cooler temperatures helped hold it back.

The temperature, which reached a high of 17 C (63°F) on Sunday, was expected to cool further, with Environment Canada forecasting a 40 percent chance of showers in Fort McMurray on Monday.

Cooler temperatures around 10 C were expected through to Friday after last week's record heat. Still, much of Alberta is tinder-box dry after a mild winter and warm spring.

Alberta's government estimated on Sunday that the fire had consumed 161,000 hectares (395,000 acres).

Officials made clear it was too early to put a time line on getting thousands of evacuees camped out in nearby towns back to Fort McMurray soon, even if their homes are intact.   Continued...