Firefighters progress

CALGARY, Alberta – Firefighters made progress against a wildfire in the Fort McMurray region of northern Alberta on Thursday as a shift in winds pushed it away from communities and oil sands facilities.

The massive blaze covered 505,000 hectares (1.2 million acres), up from 483,000 on Wednesday. On Thursday, it moved across the border to the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan, but Alberta wildfire officer Chad Morrison said cooler weather and rain would aid efforts to get it under control.

“I can report that we saw a trace of rain this morning, so that’s actually helped our firefighting efforts,” he added.

Mr Morrison said the burnt area equaled the total consumed in last year’s entire fire season.

The blaze, which hit Fort McMurray in early May, surged north on Monday. It forced the evacuation of 8000 oil sands workers, destroyed a work camp and prolonged a shutdown that has cut Canadian oil output by a million barrels a day.

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