June 6, 2011 1:56 pm

Massive northern Alberta wildfire nears record size


A massive wildfire burning north of Fort McMurray grew to 386,796 hectares over the weekend, and threatens to become the largest recorded wildfire in Alberta’s history.

The fire is burning in the Richardson backcountry, about 60 km north of Fort McMurray and covers an area about five times the size of Edmonton.

The province has recorded only two other larger fires; the 1950 Chinchaga fire and the 1981 Keane fire, each of which burned 409,000 hectares.

A monstrous plane, considered the world’s largest water bomber, is now involved in a battle to snuff out a number of forest fires in a tinder-dry region of northeastern Alberta.

The Martin Mars flying boat, which can carry 27,000 litres of water, started bombing runs on fires north of Fort McMurray Sunday afternoon.

The four-engine plane can cover one and a half hectares in one sweep and can also carry fire suppresant.

The aircraft was to be used initially on two small out-of-control fires north of Fort McMurray.

Hundreds of firefighters, backed up by heavy equipment and smaller aircraft, are also battling the flames.

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