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Smoke from Canadian wildfire to reach Grand Forks, but haze expected to be minimal

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Smoke from a raging wildfire that forced 88,000 residents to flee from a Canadian town in northeast Alberta is expected to reach the Red River Valley by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Smoke from a raging wildfire that forced 88,000 residents to flee from a Canadian town in northeast Alberta is expected to reach the Red River Valley by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

The fire in Fort McMurray, Alberta., has been burning since Sunday and has destroyed 1,600 structures, ravaged one neighborhood and halted incoming and outgoing commercial flights, authorities said Wednesday.

"This is a nasty and dirty fire," Chief Darby Allen of the Fort McMurray Fire Department told reporters of a blaze that has prompted the biggest evacuation ever in the province.

The wildfire now covers about 18,500 acres, officials said. No injuries or deaths were reported as of Wednesday afternoon.

The massive amount of smoke created by the fire will arrive in Grand Forks soon, though haze created by the fire should be minimal, said Jeff Makowski, a meteorologist of the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

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Some smoke from another fire in Manitoba already is lingering over the Red River Valley, he said.

"A lot will depend on the nature of the fire (in Fort McMurray)--how long it persists and the nature of the winds," Makowski said. "Some of that smoke has the potential to make it down here in the next day or two. The smoke will likely be pretty high up in the atmosphere, moving with the winds that are aloft."

Makowski said there was a "pretty good chance" of seeing some sort of haze, but it likely would be minimal based on the fact that the fire is so far away, about 1,100 miles to the northwest.

"Oftentimes, the farther away a fire is, the smoke travels higher up in the atmosphere," he said.

Makowski added the beginning of May is a little early for fire season, though it is not uncommon for wildfires in western Canada and the United States to create hazy conditions for communities downwind.


Reuters Media contributed to this report.

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