Early yesterday came the grim news that Canadian officials feared the Fort McMurray wildfire would rage for "months." But later in the day, the weather changed, bringing renewed hope of containment:
Officials said Sunday they reached a turning point in fighting an enormous wildfire, hoping to get a "death grip'" on the blaze that devastated Canada's oil sands town of Fort McMurray amid cooler temperatures and light rain. Meanwhile, a massive evacuation of residents displaced by the blaze came to an end.A lot of work remains just to contain the fire, and a lot of devastation has been left in its wake. Upwards of 80,000 people have been displaced, and "the fire has torched 1,600 homes and other buildings. Gas has been turned off, the power grid is damaged and water is not drinkable. ...The fire and mass evacuation has forced a quarter or more of Canada's oil output offline and was expected to impact an economy already hurt by the fall in the price of oil."
Chad Morrison of Alberta Wildfire told a news conference he's "very happy" and called it great firefighting weather.
"We can really get in there and really get a handle on this fire and really get a death grip on it," said Morrison, who answered yes when asked if they've reached a turning point.
With cooler temperatures in the next three or four days, he said firefighters should be able to put out hot spots. And it has allowed them to further protect fire-ravaged Fort McMurray. "I feel very buoyed and happy that we are making great progress," he said.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the wildfire grew much more slowly than was feared and it is now 161,000 hectares (397,831 acres). She said the blaze is quite a bit smaller than had been expected on Saturday, when officials expected the fire to double in size.
...Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said they "may be turning a corner" but it's too early to celebrate and a lot of work remains.
But the fact that the fire did not spread as expected, and that weather conditions are conducive to fighting it, is very welcome news indeed.