The Canada Conflagration

By Elena V.

On Monday, May 9th, over a week after the raging inferno began, temperatures finally dropped, enabling the firefighters to gain some control and divert the fire away from the Canadian city of Fort McMurray. In case you did not know, the terrific and dreadful still-burning Canadian fires, have burned the forest over 500,000 hectares of land across northern Alberta. While some hotspots remain, the worst seems to be over, at least for Fort McMurray. Lamentably, it has been a gruesome period for Canadian habitants who are still trying to escape from the wild fires spreading through all northern Alberta.  Even more uplifting is the fact that the brave firemen were able to save over 90% of the structures, about 25,000 businesses and residences, from being burnt to ashes. The Canadian fire began May 1st, and has forced more than 88,000 people to evacuate. Unfortunately,  It could burn for months before the blaze is under control.

Though residents are not allowed to return to their homes yet, there is some comfort in the knowledge that their lives may not be totally devastated. Also, while the fire has caused billions of dollars in damages and is already one of the most expensive natural disasters in Canada’s history, it does not seem to have taken any lives. This, of course, could change once officials are able to examine the fire-ravaged town. Canadian officials say they expect the massive wildfire that has destroyed large parts of Alberta’s oil sands to continue burning for months.

However, thanks to some help from Mother Nature and the tremendous efforts of the more than 1,000 firefighters, the fire has been contained to a 621 square mile area about 30-40 km away from the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan. Though the wildfire has yet to cross the border, officials warn that the danger is far from over. They maintain that unless the area experiences significant rainfall, the fire will continue to burn for several months, raising the possibility of it getting it out of control again.

Rachel Notley, Alberta’s premier said about 12,000 evacuees have been airlifted from oil sands over the past two days, and about 7,000 have left in highway convoys escorted by police. She said the goal was to complete the evacuation from northern work camps by Sunday. It has been declared a state of emergency. The fire could reach the edges of the Suncor oil sands facility, about 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. Non-essential staff have been evacuated and efforts have been made to protect the site.

Low humidity, high temperatures nearing 30 degrees Celsius, and gusty winds in forests and brush dried out from two months of drought are helping to fan the flames.

Others say climate change could make these kinds of extreme fire events the new normal, and everything can start over again.

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