High temperatures and gusting winds are helping expand the Fort McMurray forest fire, creating a situation where the "out of control" blaze that has forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 people could possible double in size on Saturday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says.
"In no way is this fire under control," Ms. Notley told a Saturday afternoon briefing in Edmonton. "The Fort McMurray wall of fire is still burning out of control."
That's despite the efforts of about 500 firefighters, backed by tools that include 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers, who have managed to save downtown Fort McMurray, said Ms. Notley.
As of late Friday night, said Ms. Notley, about 156,000 hectares was in flames though she noted the fire is burning to the northeast and way from the northern Alberta community.
But she said conditions will be bad Saturday for fighting the blaze as temperatures hit the high twenties and winds gust up to 40 kilometres per hour. "In these conditions, officials tell us the fire may double in size in the forested areas today."
Ms. Notley said Ontario, Quebec, the Northwest Territories, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have provided firefighters, equipment and other firefighting aid.
She said the fire is affecting energy operations in the region with Suncor having evacuated staff from operations as a key site faces the possibility of the fire burning to its perimeter. Syncrude is also clearing out a regional operation.
Ms. Notley said she expected a more detailed assessment on Monday of the impact on the sector.
Chad Morrison, a representative of Alberta Wildfire, told the briefing in Edmonton that said there was some good news: The fire is moving away from the community, and cooler weather may open the prospect of a helpful shower.
But, he warned, "we need heavy rain. Showers won't be enough."
Mr. Morrison said showers elsewhere in Alberta may quell wildfires, freeing up firefighters to redeploy to the Fort McMurray fire.
Scott Long, executive director of provincial operations for the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said firefighters in Fort McMurray have "held the line," protecting critical infrastructure in the city such as its water-treatment plant, the electrical grid, and downtown core including the city hospital.
"Other than some smoke damage, which will take awhile to clean up, it's still intact," said Mr. Long, referring to the hospital.
"Right now, we're fairly confident that the critical infrastructure in Fort McMurray, we're holding the line."
He said a more detailed damage assessment will come after the situation stabilizes.