Canada getting on top of Alberta wildfire, Fort McMurray off limits

Updated: 2016-05-09 10:06


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Canada getting on top of Alberta wildfire, Fort McMurray off limits

Smoke from Fort McMurray-area wildfires that forced evacuations hangs over the still-frozen Lac La Loche across the provincial border in La Loche, Saskatchewan, Canada May 7, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

GREGOIRE LAKE, Alberta - Canadian officials on Sunday showed some optimism for the first time that they were beginning to get on top of the country's most destructive wildfire in recent memory, as favorable weather helped firefighters and winds took the flames southeast, away from oil sands boomtown Fort McMurray.

There was still no timeline, however, for getting Fort McMurray's 88,000 inhabitants back into what remains of their town, or when energy companies would be able to restart operations at evacuated sites near to the town, which has cut the area's oil output in half.

"It definitely is a positive point for us, for sure," said Alberta fire official Chad Morrison in a news briefing, when asked if the fight to contain the flames had a reached a turning point.

"We're obviously very happy that we've held the fire better than expected," said Morrison. "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."

The wildfire scorching through Canada's oil sands region in northeast Alberta since last Sunday night had been expected to double in size on Sunday, threatening the neighboring province of Saskatchewan.

But with the fire moving into its second week, light rains and cooler temperatures helped hold it back, giving officials hope that they can soon begin assessing the damage to Fort McMurray, close to where the fire started.

"As more and more fire has burned out around the city and the fuel around the city starts to disappear... we are starting to move into that second phase of securing the site and assessing the site," said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, during the same media briefing.

Officials said it was too early to put a timeline on getting people back into the town safely.

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