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Firefighter battles blaze to save city

Casualties of flames: the fire-damaged city of Fort McMurray in Alberta (Photograph by Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/AP)

A firefighter on the front line of unprecedented and devastating wildfires in his Canadian home town has spoken of the department’s determination to save their city.

Nick Waddington, whose sister Sarah Morgan has lived in Bermuda for 13 years, has seen Fort McMurray decimated by the blaze and his wife, Kerri, and three children evacuated to safety in the wake of the inferno sweeping Alberta.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette from Fort McMurray, Fire Captain Waddington said he had never seen the likes of the wildfires that had devastated the city of more than 60,000.

“No matter how long you have been in the job there is no getting used to what has been going on in Fort McMurray,” he added. “Even the really experienced members of the crew cannot find anything to compare with what we have seen here. Neighbourhoods have been burnt to the ground and the city has been evacuated. I have never seen anything like this before.”

Yesterday, officials in the city told the BBC News that the battle to contain the wildfires in west-central Canada has reached a turning point, partly thanks to drizzle and favourable winds.

A fifth of homes in Fort McMurray have been destroyed and more than 80,000 people evacuated.

On Saturday, officials had said they expected the fire to double in size. The fire covered 622 square miles on Sunday morning and was about 30 to 40km from the neighbouring province, Saskatchewan.

“It has been both emotionally draining and physically draining,” the 37-year-old firefighter said. “Days just run into each other and no one really has any perception of time.

“But every firefighter is bound together by one single purpose; saving their city, and we are totally determined and committed to the job at hand.

“We really appreciate the help that has come in from outside the city, which has been absolutely crucial, and the overwhelming support we have received from the community.”