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Fort McMurray wildfire slows slightly as it nears Saskatchewan

By Allen Cone
Fort McMurray wildfire slows slightly as it nears Saskatchewan
About 500 firefighters, with assistance from 15 helicopters and 14 tankers, are battling the wildfire in Fort McMurray in Alberta Province. Photo by Royal Canadian Mounted Police

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta, May 8 (UPI) -- The massive wildfire that has displaced 90,000 people in Alberta Province the past seven days was moving more slowly Sunday as it headed in the direction of Saskatchewan Province.

But Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says with low humidity and high temperatures and gusty winds, conditions are still extreme.

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The fire was 25 miles from Saskatchewan Province.

She also lowered the reported size of the devastated area from 494,000 acres -- three times the size of Edmonton -- to 98,326 acres. The fire has consumed more than 1,600 homes and buildings.

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"We may be turning a corner but its too early to celebrate," said Ralph Goodale, federal minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. "This beast is an extraordinarily difficult problem."

Chad Morrison, senior wildlife manager for Alberta, expects to be fighting the fire for "days to come" unless the region receives at least 4 inches of rain.

Matthew Anderson, wildfire information officer with Alberta Agriculture, told CBC News conditions will vary the next several days.

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"We do have some difficult weather, some interesting weather, coming up," he said. "There's another cold front coming through and ahead of that front it's going to be very gusty."

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More than 500 firefighters were working to contain the fire with 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers.

The firefighters are concentrating on saving infrastructure

Notley said late Saturday much of Fort McMurray was without electricity or drinkable water.

"There's a great deal of hazardous material to be cleaned up and many other things to be done before the city is safe for families to go home," she said.

Rescue crews and police say it will be several days before workers can clear debris and residents an move back to their homes if they are spared.

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