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Canada's 'out of control' fire doubles in size

Last updated on: May 08, 2016 14:48 IST

IMAGE: A massive wildfire, which caused a mandatory evacuation, rages south of Fort McMurray near Anzac, Alberta, Canada. Photograph: Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta/Handout/Reuters

A wildfire that is raging across the province of Alberta is due to become Canada's costliest natural disaster later on Sunday, after reaching the size of Warwickshire, about 488,000 acres.

The blaze, which has forced the evacuation of 88,000 people from the city of Fort McMurray, doubled in size on Saturday to around 494,000 acres, according to firefighters.

IMAGE: A massive plume of smoke, from a wildfire north of the city, stretches over Fort McMurray. Photograph: Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta/Handout/Reuters

The conditions that preceded the start of this fire were quintessential wildfire conditions: a seemingly endless supply of dry fuel on the forest floor and in the canopy, and intense heat.

All that was needed was a spark, and whether it was caused by human error or lightning (an investigation is underway), once the spark was there, the fire became a beast.

IMAGE: A plane flies low to dump fire retardant on wildfires near Fort McMurray. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters

Alberta's government said Saturday evening that the wildfire burning near the city of Fort McMurray will cover more than 2,000 kilometre by midnight -- up from 600 square miles at midday -- and will continue to grow, possibly even reaching Saskatchewan.

"In no way is this fire under control," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told the media.

IMAGE: Smoke rises in a burned-out neighbourhood in Fort McMurray. Photograph: Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority/Handout/Reuters

Firefighters continued working to protect the downtown and homes in Fort McMurray and held the line for a second straight day.

According to several reports, there is the possibility of rain on Sunday and Monday, but officials say the fire can only be put out by sustained heavy rains.

IMAGE: A fire truck drives by the wildfires near Fort McMurray. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters

There were fears the blaze could reach oil sands mines. Syncrude, a major oil sands mining company in Alberta, said Saturday that it was shutting down operations and removing all personnel from their site until there was no more risk from the fire.