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Canadian Wildfire Could Rage For Months Near Fort McMurray

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Look at images from space and you really get an idea how massive the wildfire is that is burning across western Canada. We're about to zoom in on one family that's been affected personally. Firefighters have made some progress slowing down this fire, but it could be months before it's under control, and already 100,000 people have fled. And let's talk now with John Fleming. He's in the city of Edmonton. It's about 270 miles south of the fire. And he has taken in a number of family members, also some animals. He is on the line. And, Mr. Fleming, good morning to you, sir.

JOHN FLEMING: Good morning.

GREENE: So I understand you have more than a dozen family members you've taken in, four dogs, a cat. What's the scene like right now in your home as you're bringing people out of harm's way?

FLEMING: Absolutely, there is my five siblings and my dad who live in Fort McMurray. So our little family of my wife and I and our two kids are now 14 of us in not a big house, but we're a family.

GREENE: When - and Fort McMurray, we should say, is where much of your family lives. I know you're from there. And it sounds like that city has really been hit in - just unimaginably hard in this.

FLEMING: Yeah, it was really unbelievable. I was at my work, and within a couple hours in the afternoon, you started to see pictures and hear stories about a fire that was burning outside of town quickly turned its eyes on the city. And people were having helicopters fly over their homes. And my sister, who lost their home, had somebody outside of their house on a bullhorn yelling to her husband to leave. So he took their two dogs and just escaped with the clothes on their back. And just unbelievable that nobody was hurt or harmed.

GREENE: It sounds like, fortunately, your sister, her family and all of your family members are OK, which must be just a huge relief.

FLEMING: Absolutely, and we do what family members do. So we knew that they knew where to go. And we knew they were going to come. And now we're just working out where we're going to go from here.

GREENE: Was your sister able to find out what happened to her home after she had fled and arrived in your place?

FLEMING: I can tell you one thing that's been really, really cool is Google Earth's satellite overlay image came. An emergency Crisis Map was done and showed all of the structures that had burned. So that's how she first found out that she had lost her home.

GREENE: And, Mr. Fleming, I gather you have a brother who is a firefighter who is still up in this area. What are you hearing from him?

FLEMING: Yeah, he's right in the city. He hasn't been able to leave yet. So they're now just planning their shifts on how they're going to fly people back in and out because they've called this thing the beast - three times the size of Edmonton. And it certainly is going to be quite a while, like you've been hearing, before this thing is under control. So, yeah, they're remarkably heroic.

GREENE: Well, Mr. Fleming, it's very good news that your family is all safe. And we'll be thinking the best for you and the family. Thanks so much for talking to us.

FLEMING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.