Recent rainfall and cooler temperatures have helped to reduce spread of the wildfire that recently rendered devastating impacts to Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Nevertheless, the fire continues to grow outside the city and has now claimed 2,020 square kilometers (790 square miles), according to media reports. A general trend of cooler temperatures is expected through this week, before another warming trend next weekend.
The fire was enabled after a period of 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. The fire started southwest of the city around May 1, and quickly grew out of control. Fire suppression efforts were very difficult given persistent hot, dry and windy conditions.
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Media reports indicate that officials have accessed the city to survey affected areas. Large areas of Fort McMurray have been spared, thanks to fire containment efforts, but areas such as Beacon Hill and Abasand have suffered devastating impacts. It will take some time to assess the full scope of impacts from this devastating event, and our thoughts are with those directly affected.
Media reports indicate that no deaths or injuries have been reported from the fire itself. However, two evacuees died in a traffic accident during the evacuation. At least 88,000 were forced to evacuate Fort McMurray. About 25,000 were initially forced to evacuate north to energy facility camps, until they could safely evacuate south.
Alberta officials report at least 2,400 homes and buildings destroyed, according to media reports. Some areas such as Beacon Hill and Abasand have suffered devastating impacts, where homes were burned to the foundation. Local infrastructure has been affected, including damage both to the power grid and water supply. Gas has also been turned off pending inspection of local gas lines.
Media reports indicate that fire suppression efforts were able to spare 25,000 homes, the local hospital, schools and severe damage to the downtown area. Officials indicate that about 85 to 90 percent of the city remains intact. Officials have started planning efforts to allow residents to return to the city although it will take time to establish a timeline.
Concerning impacts to energy interests, the fire, mass evacuation and supply disruption has forced up to a third of Canadian oil output offline, with expected economic impacts compounded with those of falling oil prices. Energy production facilities have sustained minimal, if any direct damage, according to media reports. The Alberta oil sands have the third-largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
Media reports indicate that industry insured losses could range from CDN 2.3 billion to 4.6 billion, according to initial reports from Morgan Stanley. These estimates could change as post-event survey efforts continue.
Again, our first thoughts and concerns are with those who have been directly affected by this devastating event.
Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, CBC, The Weather Network, Environment Canada
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