8 May 2016

Fort McMurray wildfire 'could double' as evacuees flee

8:04 am on 8 May 2016

Evacuees flee as Canada wildfire grows

A huge wildfire which devastated Canadian oil town Fort McMurray could double in size over the next 24 hours, officials say.

The Fort McMurray wildfire has spread across 100,000 hectares, with officials saying it could double in size today.

The Fort McMurray wildfire has spread across 100,000 hectares, with officials saying it could double in size today. Photo: AFP

The blaze now covers an area larger than New York City and is being fanned by winds and feeding on dry vegetation.

The flames are moving away from the town, most of whose inhabitants have reached safety.

More than 80,000 people were evacuated from the city this week.

Most evacuees headed south by car on Alberta Highway 63 - the only land route out of the area - in a slow-moving exodus that left many temporarily stranded on the roadside as they ran out of petrol.

But many who fled north were still trapped and evacuations by road and air were resuming.

Residents there were told they must evacuate and 5500 were flown out on Friday (yesterday NZ time) and another 4000 were expected to do so today.

A mass land convoy from the north was disrupted by 60m flames flanking the highway yesterday.

At least 2500 made it through the flame-damaged city and small convoys were resumed early on Saturday.

Evacuees drive south as flames and smoke rise along the highway near Fort McMurray, Alberta on Friday.

Evacuees drive south as flames and smoke rise along the highway near Fort McMurray, Alberta on Friday. Photo: AFP

The provincial government said on Friday that the fire had grown to 100,000 hectares.

Wildfire prevention manager Chad Morrison said there was a "high potential that the fire could double in size" by the end of Saturday.

But he added that it would expand into a more remote forested area north-east of Fort McMurray.

Home foundations and skeletons of possesions are all that remain in parts of a residential neighborhood in the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

Home foundations and skeletons of possesions are all that remain in parts of a residential neighborhood in the city. Photo: AFP

Dry conditions and 27 degree Celsius heat were expected during the day, but cooler temperatures would prevail and there was a possibility of rain on Sunday and Monday.

The danger, said one officer, was "tentacles growing out of the fire", which could end up looping around and trapping people.

There are no reports of injuries or deaths but several residents who may have survived the fire have apparently been spotted in Fort McMurray.

Teams were sweeping the city in case any homeless people were left behind.