Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada has suffered widespread and severe impacts as a result of wildfire activity. Media reports indicate that over 80,000 people have been evacuated. No serious injuries or deaths have been reported, however, the fire has destroyed homes in several neighborhoods. Our first thoughts and concerns are with those directly affected by this event.
Record high temperatures exceeding 32 C (90 F) and extremely dry air, together with 30 to 40 kilometers per hour (19 to 25 mph) winds have enabled rapid wildfire growth and spread. The fire, which started southwest of the city on Sunday, remains out of control and is predicted to worsen with ongoing hot, dry, and windy conditions, according to Alberta government officials. Some cooling is expected over the next few days, but rainfall is very unlikely until Monday.
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More than 150 firefighters are battling the fire. Military assistance is expected to arrive within the next couple of days.
According to local officials, 70 percent of homes in the suburb of Beacon Hill have been destroyed. While no official count of damaged homes has been provided, media reports indicate 607 homes in the area according to a recent municipal census. Reports also indicate 50 and 90 percent of homes damaged in Abasand and Waterways, respectively. Damage was also reported in Wood Buffalo, with localized damage also reported in Grayling Terrace, Thickwood, Dickinsfield and the downtown area. Twelve trailers were lost in the town of Timberlea. Damage is currently being assessed in the town of Draper.
Thousands faced heavy traffic on roads leading out of Fort McMurray. Gas stations in the area were depleted by Tuesday night, according to media reports. Nearly 20,000 people are expected to arrive in Edmonton where temporary reception centers have been set up to assist evacuees. Several oil sands operations north of Fort McMurray provided temporary lodging to residents forced out of their homes.
The fire has disrupted oil operations in Canada’s oil sands region. While no damage has been reported, Royal Dutch Shell PLC has closed one of its oil sands mines and is in the process of closing another. Suncor Energy stated that it will be reducing crude production. As a result of the disruption, oil prices increased to USD46 a barrel on Wednesday.
Again, our first thoughts and concerns are with those directly affected by this event.
Sources: BBC, Reuters, CBC, The Weather Network, Environment Canada, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
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