Over 80,000 people were forced to evacuate Fort McMurray, Alberta as a turbulent wildfire consumed their homes. Residents fled on the main road out of town, highway 63, as sparks and flames hopped the road. People have described the situation as “chaos” and “apocalyptic.”
The fire reportedly began Sunday. Dryness and heat created a dangerous mix, leading some to describe Alberta’s boreal forest as a “tinder box.” It appeared fire crews would be able to manage the fire until Tuesday, when conditions deteriorated rapidly and residents were ordered to evacuate. Premier of Alberta Rachel Notley described the event as the largest evacuation in the province’s history. Provincial firefighters worked with local crews, and helicopters dumped fire retardant and water.
Prime Minister Trudeau has offered the government’s assistance as the fire continues to burn. So far no injuries have been reported, but whole neighborhoods have vanished in smoke. Terrified residents captured harrowing scenes on social media. Local Jordan Stuffco said, “[With] the heat from the oncoming smoke and flames, you could see mini-tornadoes forming near the road. It was something out of an apocalyptic movie.”
Fort McMurray is near the center of the vast Athabasca oil sands in Canada, the “biggest single oil deposit.” The oil sands could “produce 2.5 million barrels of oil per day for 186 years.” The proposed Keystone XL pipeline likely would have ferried oil from that deposit to the United States, and although Obama vetoed the pipeline, work continues at the Fort McMurray oil sands. The industry’s work camps are being utilized as emergency shelters.
Via The Guardian