Wildfire rages in Canada’s oil capital
Alberta, Canada is home to the Oil Sands Reserve, the third-largest source of oil in the world. The influx of people into the city to work the Oil Sands has made the area a bustling hub of activity, including in Fort McMurray where the huge number of Oil Workers has created a city where men outnumber women 3-1. Now, “Canada’s Manliest City” is burning. A raging wildfire has consumed much of the city, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
Fleets of school buses have been moving back and forth between Fort McMurray and the nearby town of Anzac, ferrying people to safety. A BBC source who lives in the town estimated that nearly half of the city had so far been destroyed, and eyewitnesses described gas stations and propane tanks exploding from the heat.
The fire is unusual in its scope and destruction, which many have suggested is the result of a number of factors converging. The El Nino weather pattern has left much of the region desiccated and dry, leaving the area in serious risk of wildfire. The surrounding cities are in a state of emergency and a mandatory evacuation order has been issued in several of them.
Helicopters dropping fire retardant and water are constantly seen moving back in forth through the blue prairie sky. Hundreds of firefighters are working around the clock to remove brush and other combustible material from the fire’s path in an attempt to slow its progress. Through heroic efforts, they have been able to save the center of Fort McMurray. So far, however, the fire has resisted all attempts to extinguish it and local residents are worried that they may not be able to save what’s left of the town.
The fire has been burning for several days now and authorities believe it is likely to move into other local communities.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has cautioned observers not to connect this with global warming in spite of the influence of the changing weather on the spread of destructive fires:
“It’s well known that one of the consequences of climate change will be a greater prevalence of extreme weather events around the planet. However, any time we try to make a political argument out of one particular disaster…that can sometimes not have the desired outcome.”
We can only hope that as weather patterns around the Earth shift, these sorts of terrible tragedies will remain uncommon.