Morrison said a lack of rain baking the forest to combustible conditions contributed to the power of the Fort McMurray blaze.

Morrison said winds were moving the blaze away from Fort McMurray.

´╗┐Alberta fire evacuees get view of damage

The road took convoys past blocks largely reduced to grey wastelands of charred concrete and ash, a gutted Super 8 motel and a levelled gas station.

Those who managed to escape south settled in hotels, campgrounds, with friends or at temporary reception centres.

Chad Morrison, Alberta's senior wildfire manager, said critical infrastructure the downtown, the water treatment plant, the hospital and the airport remained intact.

The blaze also hit the evacuated village of Anzac to the south of the city late Thursday, hitting between 18 and 20 structures.

Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said there were almost 500 firefighters in and Cheap Women Canada Goose Palliser Coat Berry Nz around Fort McMurray supported by 11 helicopters, 12 pieces of heavy equipment, and 16 water bombers.

A provincewide fire ban was still in effect Friday. Larivee also ordered a ban on recreational use of off highway vehicles, while Notley urged Albertans to avoid forests altogether.

"It was shocking to see the damaged cars all burned on the side of the road. It made you feel lucky to get out of there."

Scott Long of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency confirmed a few people had defied the evacuation order and stayed in Fort McMurray's downtown, but there were no reports of looting.

About 1,800 were being housed at the Northlands Expo Centre in Edmonton. A city official said one challenge was dealing with stress caused by thousands bunking on cots in one big hall. People staying there were likely to remain for at least two weeks or more, he said.

Notley said the plan was to get 500 vehicles out by ground and 5,500 people by air on Friday. Another 4,000 were to go Saturday. About 7,000 left by air Thursday.

The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.

There was no update on the number of structures burned, which stood at 1,600 Wednesday, mainly in city neighbourhoods to the south and southwest.

Officials said shifting winds were giving the embattled northern Alberta city a break, but they added the fire that forced 80,000 people from their homes remained out of control and was likely to burn for weeks.

"This is a dynamic, challenging, extreme fire, so many things can happen. But at this point the prediction over the next two days is for the fire to move away to the northeast," he said.

"The city of Fort McMurray is not safe to return to, and this will be true for a significant period of time," she told a briefing in Edmonton.

About 1,200 vehicles had passed through by late afternoon despite a one hour interruption due to heavy smoke.

"It looked like a war zone," Dunstan said at a rest stop south of the fire ravaged city.

"We are better now that we are out."

The sprawling fire in northeastern Alberta reached 1,000 square kilometres bigger than the size of Calgary. Officials said they expected it would double over the weekend.

In Edmonton, Premier Rachel Notley announced the government will provide financial help to evacuees for immediate needs. Adults are to receive $1,250 each and dependents $500. The cost is estimated at $100 million. It was escorted by the RCMP and a police helicopter in the air to warn of any renewed fire danger.

Donations continued to stream in from around the country.

His wife said they escaped Tuesday through smoke and flames, but soon ran out of gas.

More than 20,000 displaced residents had been living in oilsands work camps since Tuesday after the blaze cut the main road through Fort McMurray and sent residents fleeing either north or south.

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Jim Dunstan was in the convoy with his wife, Tracy, and two young sons.

The Red Cross reported about $30 million had been donated for victim relief. government pledged $300,000 and Saskatchewan put up $250,000. The federal government has promised to match Red Cross donations.

"It was pretty scary, especially when you have kids. It was so smoky it hurt my eyes," she said.