Fort McMurray wildfire: Flames erupt along Highway 63 during live Global News broadcast
The flames of a raging wildfire flared up and inched closer to one of the main roads in Fort McMurray, Alberta as Global News correspondent Reid Fiest was broadcasting live a short distance away.
Cars and trucks were lining up along Highway 63 Tuesday afternoon, trying to move away from the worsening conditions.
In what seemed like an instant, the flames crept up the trunks of tinder dry trees across from where Fiest was reporting live in the 6:30 p.m. AT (5:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. MT) broadcast.
“This is Fort McMurray burning,” Fiest told Global National anchor Dawna Friesen. “We’re right in the thick of it.”
As the camera panned to show the flames on a hill across Highway 63—the main corridor through the city—the fire roared down the slope to the edge of the road.
“To be honest, I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to stay here, but it shows how quickly things are changing,” Fiest said as the ferocious flames swallowed up the trees and plumes of thick, black smoke filled the sky above.
Watch below: Ongoing video coverage of the Fort McMurray wildfire.
Just behind Fiest on his side of the road, a ring of small flames sparked up on the dry grass — right beside the fire station.
Fiest was on the move throughout the day as wind fueled the flames and pushed them closer to the city. With the temperature reaching as high as 32 C by late afternoon and winds gusting up to 20 km/h, the situation changed rapidly.
“Officials warned, Dawna, that if the conditions changed, that if the wind shifted this afternoon… that this [fire] could really do this.”
As Fiest continued with his report, the flames only grew worse, exploding upward behind him.
Fiest and ENG cameraperson Loren Andreae were then told to leave the area.
As Global News moved to quickly to tear down equipment and move to a new location, Fiest broke out his iPhone to show what he was seeing.
“It almost looks like a bit of a tornado,” he said, describing the smoke-filled sky and the wall of flames a short distance away. “It seems to keep coming right toward us.”
Speaking from a new location in downtown Fort McMurray when Global National went to air with another broadcast at 4:30 p.m. MT (6:30 p.m. ET), Fiest said it was mostly residential and some industrial areas being affected. Fiest pointed out most of the oil production sites were to the north of where the fire raged.
Fiest described hearing “pops” from his new location, speculating the sounds could be from propane tanks as the flames began to take over homes. Fiest and the Global News crew were forced to relocate once again around 5:30 p.m. MT (7:30 p.m. ET), as the situation worsened once more.
Global News meteorologist Anthony Farnell said the conditions in Fort McMurray have been prime to fuel the fire. Farnell said humidity had dropped to just 15 per cent by late afternoon as the temperature soared to a record-breaking high of 32 C.
“Firefighters use this 30-30-30 rule. It involves temperature, humidity and wind speed. When they’re all around 30, it’s bad news,” Farnell said. “That is what we have seen throughout the day today.”
But the forecast may only worsen Wednesday, with no rain in sight, even stronger winds and temperatures predicted to remain above 30 C.
“This is going to be a rough 48 hours coming up,” Farnell warned.
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.