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Canada Fort McMurray wildfire spreads into Saskatchewan

Photo of the Noralta Lodge camp north of Fort McMurray, Alta., on May 18.

Phoenix Heli-Flight

The Fort McMurray wildfire that's been described as a beast has now spread into Saskatchewan, but officials say there's no imminent threat to any community.

The massive fire, which has grown to 5,000 square kilometres, has burned nearly eight square kilometres into Saskatchewan.

Emergency management commissioner Duane McKay said it is still about 30 kilometres away from La Loche, the nearest Saskatchewan community.

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"La Loche is situated against a lake, there's old burns to the north as well, so we don't see a direct fire threat to La Loche," McKay said Thursday.

But he said people should keep in mind that the wildfire has been "completely unpredictable."

"It was anticipated to be in Saskatchewan just over a week ago and it stalled out. It is now moving again, but weather forecasts are indicating that should slow," he said.

"We should see a shift in wind direction, which should mitigate the growth of that fire into Saskatchewan."

Fires near La Loche last year mean there's less brush and trees to burn as the Fort McMurray fires advances.

McKay said smoke is a big concern in La Loche. There's hope that winds from the east will help clear out some of the smoke.

La Loche resident Joe Graves, manager of the Northern pharmacy, says he's already noticed a difference.

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"It's pretty good today. The wind has shifted," Graves said in a phone interview.

"Last night was brutal. Last night at about 6:30 it was pitch black. You couldn't see anything outside."

Officials said there have been no evacuations.

The wind will also help Saskatchewan firefighting crews who have been working on the eastern flank of the blaze, said Steve Roberts, executive director of Saskatchewan wildfire management.

"It will also allow our crews access to the base of the fire in less smoky conditions, so we can engage the fire better," he said.

"So because of those winds we don't expect a large or rapid ingress into Saskatchewan from this fire in the next 24, 36 hours."

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A fire command team has been set up in La Loche and a cache of equipment and resources is being established in Buffalo Narrows, about 100 kilometres east of the village.

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