Amid the growing wildfire in Fort McMurray, two people were killed following a crash between an SUV and a tractor trailer on a major highway.
The accident, which occurred on Highway 81 at Range Road 94 near the Heart Lake First Nation, caused the closure of a section of the highway.
As reported by CBC.ca, the driver and the passenger traveling in the SUV were pronounced dead on the scene.
The “catastrophic” wildfire, which has spread to 10,000 hectares, has destroyed 1600 homes and buildings in Fort McMurray. As of Wednesday, the fire is expected to grow as evening approaches. As many as 88,000 people, including the residents of the city of Fort McMurray, have been ordered to evacuate as a result of the raging fire. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said that almost 80 percent of Fort McMurray’s Beacon Hill community has been destroyed in the fire.
In a Wednesday afternoon update, Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs Danielle Larivee said that a state of emergency has been declared in the wake of the massive destruction caused by the wildfire.
Chad Morrison, province’s senior manager of wildfire prevention, said, according to CBC, “We need to get through the day here, until we get to about seven or eight o’clock at night, and we’ll have a better indication of where things stand. If we can get through tonight, I think we’ll have a day tomorrow where we might have continued success.”
The situation could be worsened by strong winds, warm weather and dry conditions, which will intensify the fire and form “explosive conditions,” according to Alberta forestry manager Bernie Schmitte. He added that the fire was “challenging all of us.”
While the area is expected to experience a cold front late Wednesday, which will possibly raise the humidity levels and drive out dry conditions, it could also result in storm clouds and lightning strikes. “We are preparing for a very bad day,” Chief Darby Allen said.
One of many people forced to evacuate was Faith Johnston. Speaking with CNN, she described how she and her family had to flee Edmonton in the wake of the growing fire, saying, “It was the most terrifying feeling looking straight ahead at a wall of flames 10 times higher than us.”
“The streets were in a panic,” she added. “People were abandoning their vehicles and hitchhiking.”