An out-of-control wildfire has burned at least half of a Canadian town of 9,800, forcing its residents to flee in a slow-moving convoy on the only highway out of town.
Hundreds of buildings in the northern Alberta town of Slave Lake have been destroyed, including the town hall and police station, CNN affiliate CTV reported. No injuries have been reported.
“It’s extremely devastating, our loss. It’s difficult to articulate,” Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee told the Globe and Mail late Sunday.
The wildfire started east of the town, then split into two and encircled the town, Rob Harris, a fire information officer with Sustainable Resource Development, told the Edmonton Journal.
Winds up to 100 kph (62 mph) fanned the flames, according to the news reports.
"It's horrible; it's just going to spread because houses are 10 feet apart," Myrna Franklin said in a CTV report. "Our house is out of town, I don't know if it's gone yet or not."
“The smoke is terrifying, black and just billowing. I called everyone I could get a hold if and asked them to leave if they hadn't already,” Slave Lake resident Cindy Martin, 27, said in an e-mail quoted by the Globe and Mail. “I'm very much in panic. At this point even if our home is OK, there will not be much of the community to go back to. Who even knows if we will have a job to go back to? Our entire lives were in Slave and now it will never be the same and the fire doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.”
About 200 firefighters were battling the Slave Lake flames, according to the news reports, and more were being dispatched.
But fires are stretching resources in the province. At least 84 wildfires are burning in Alberta, with 29 of those out of control, according to the Edmonton Journal report.
Slave Lake is 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of the provincial capital of Edmonton, with a population of 9,851, according to the town's website. Oil and gas and timber are the area's major industries.[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/05/16/vo.can.wildfire.burns.ctv"%5D