Alberta burning

Written By: - Date published: 7:29 am, May 8th, 2016 - 31 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, global warming, International - Tags: , , , ,

The political landscape is pretty lively at the moment, but back in the real world Alberta is burning. At time of writing (Saturday night) the wildfire is still getting worse:

‘Terrifying’ Canada Wildfire May Double In Size

A “terrifying” Canadian wildfire is predicted to double in size today as thousands more residents are evacuated from a burned-out city.

The warning came from officials who have been desperately organising evacuation convoys away from fire-ravaged Fort McMurray.

People are being rushed away from their destroyed and threatened homes, through scorched landscapes and down roads flanked by soaring flames. Military and police are running the latest procession of hundreds of vehicles – and a mass airlift of evacuees is also resuming.

Yesterday, some 8,000 people were flown out and today authorities say another 9,500 are expected to be evacuated.
Home Security Camera Films Fire In Canada Destroying House
Video: Inside Burning Canada Home

More than 80,000 people have already left Fort McMurray, which lies in the heart of Canada’s oil sands. The fire has destroyed 1,600 homes and other buildings and forced as much as a quarter of Canada’s oil output offline, hitting worldwide oil prices. The region has the third-largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Alberta’s provincial government, which declared a state of emergency, said the size of the blaze had grown to 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles).

Mr Morrison said no amount of resources would put this fire out, and what was needed was rain. “We have not seen rain in this area for the last two months of significance,” Mr Morrison said. “This fire will continue to burn for a very long time until we see some significant rain.”

Fortunately no one has been killed or injured so far,  but many hundreds of people will have lost everything. Unfortunately we need to prepare for more of this:

The fire in Canada looks a lot like climate change — and that should scare you

The fire, which has burned at least 325 square miles, forcing the evacuation of some 88,000 people, is so hot and so intense that’s it’s formed its own weather. The thundercloud produced by the blaze actually is creating its own lightning, and consequently spreading the fire’s rage, setting more trees alight.

True, there have been fires in Canada’s boreal forest for ages. But scientists and researchers say this fire looks a whole lot like climate change. And that should be alarming for all of us.

“This is an example of what we expect — and consistent with what we expect for climate change,” said Mike Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta who’s been studying climate change and wildfire for decades. “This fire is unprecedented,” he said, referring to its local impact.

It’s impossible for scientists to say global warming caused this specific fire, of course, but polluting the atmosphere is creating conditions that make such disasters more likely, bigger and costlier.

“In Canada, our area burned (by wildfire) has more than doubled since the early 70s,” Flannigan said. “And we’ve published work that states that this is because of human-caused climate change.

“We also find — and other researchers in the United States find — that as the temperature increases we see more fire.” …

Raw video of a burned out suburb:


lprent: Sabine comments at 0857:

I think the no-one has died yet needs to be revised. The daughter of a deputy fire chief and a friend of hers died while evacuating.
http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/05/06/news/deputy-fire-chiefs-daughter-killed-crash-while-fleeing-fort-mcmurray

budget cuts to first responders, and rest assured non[e] of the politicians is a voluntary fire fighter.

31 comments on “Alberta burning”

  1. mickysavage 1

    I watched Naomi Klein’s “This changes everything” last night. Early in the movie Fort McMurray was mentioned.

    Of course the situation is more complex than this and no one event can be attributed exclusively to climate change. I understand that the provincial government had slashed spending on fire prevention and this also no doubt contributed.

    But you have to wonder how many more of these events have to occur before even the right realise that we have to take action. Now.

    • Ad 1.1

      Whether one views the destruction by fire of a city based on the most degrading and from-space-extensive form of oil extraction as karma, or simply as a signal to plan human habitation and economy differently in Alberta, either way state and federal and big oil will be forced to start a conversation about their relationship and how to live and not wreck the earth.

      • weka 1.1.1

        One can only hope. And even if they don’t, the symbolism of this particular fire is a gift to those humans who are fighting to get things changed.

  2. Jenny Kirk 2

    Its horrifying – and almost unbelievable. And it could happen here in parts of NZ, and almost certainly in parts of Oz. Have we reached the point of No Return on climate change ?

    • AmaKiwi 2.1

      Jenny Kirk

      I am sure it will happen in NZ and especially OZ. I anticipate one of the consequences for us will be tropical cyclones. Which makes it disgusting that this government is doing nothing to protect us from the dangers.

      Oh, I forgot. They are building more motorways so we lemmings can try to flee in massive traffic jams.

  3. Sabine 3

    i think the no-one has died yet needs to be revised. The daughter of a deputy fire chief and a friend of hers died while evacuating.
    http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/05/06/news/deputy-fire-chiefs-daughter-killed-crash-while-fleeing-fort-mcmurray

    budget cuts to first responders, and rest assured non of the polititians is a voluntary fire fighter.

    There is a lot of misery coming for the displaced. Imagine having to find shelter for almost 100.000 people overnight.

  4. adam 4

    My partner was saying in all the American ‘end of days’ films you just see people running and totally self interested. I think this is showing that in the real world, this is not the case. Canadians have shown what it means to be human in the face of disaster, and helped out each other wonderfully.

    I like this video. It is chilling footage, but the comments from the PM are heart felt and genuine.

    • Sabine 4.1

      i think there is a difference between Canadians and US American.

    • weka 4.2

      I’ve been thinking the same adam, although like Sabine I’ve been wondering about the cultural differences. Compare the evacuation of the area in Alberta compared to New Orleans. But you are right, it shows us what we can do well.

      I’m still amazed that the only fatality has been from a car crash, nothing from the fire directly (is that right?). Which is making me wonder why people die in bush fires in Australia. Does anyone know? Is it a different kind of fire? Different landscape with less dwellings in actual forest? Different culture? Different evac laws?

      • Sabine 4.2.1

        The speed with which fire travels is depended on a few factors. OZ would have had a hotter surface temperature, hotter air temperature etc.
        Don’t forget that Canada literally is just at the end of spring at the moment, while the fire that killed so many in OZ was at the height of summer if memory serves rigth.
        Also the evacuations at Fort McMurray have started a few days ago, while the fire in OZ jumped and exploded with very little warning to the public.

        • weka 4.2.1.1

          That makes sense. Different kinds of forest too.

          I also get the impression that in OZ some people have the thing of staying with their houses at all costs.

          • Sabine 4.2.1.1.1

            same in Canada, i read articles where there were house to house searches to make sure people had left.

            the riding it out mentality is strong in many regardless of their point of origin.

            It’s the leaving your life behind to never ever get it back, that will have people stay.

            • adam 4.2.1.1.1.1

              When living in Western Aussie, and got told to leave a friends place, so we got into his car and did. I remember seeing the fire jump across the highway as we were driving away from it. We were doing about a 160 km at the time, and it felt like the fire was keeping up with us. We got away, in about 10 minutes. Seemed like time slowed down, it felt like hours.

              I remember the fire fighters telling us to ignore the speed limit to get away. Very scary experience, have to say all those fire fighters are brave, brave people.

              • Jamie

                “When living in Western Aussie, and got told to leave a friends place, so we got into his car and did.” Adam

                Wasn’t Margaret River 2011 was it bloke???

                https://r1016132.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/baptism-of-fire-lifesavers-and-heartbreakers-pt1/

                From an ex voly who don’t believe in all this commie pseudo science “man-made” climate change garbage [unless y’all talking man made weather weapons]

                When the Endeavour came upon the east coast of Australia, James Cook described it as ‘this continent of smoke’.

                • adam

                  About a decade and half before then. A bit further north.

                  Yeah Aussie burns a lot.

                  Jeesh are you calling the Jesuits commies?

                  But anyway, good on you for being a voly when you were – bloody life savers.

    • This is in no way an ‘end of days’ event. When the shite dose go down, there will be no gas at the service stations, and 3 days worth of food in the shops, for the first 24 hours anyway.

  5. johnm 6

    Paul Beckwith on the fires at Port McMurray | Robin Westenra

    https://www.spreaker.com/user/seemorerocks/paul-beckwith-on-the-fires-at-port-mcmur

  6. Gabby 7

    So don’t the Canadians do fire breaks?

    • weka 7.1

      Sounds like it wouldn’t have made any difference,

      But when asked why a firebreak wasn’t built around Fort McMurray to prevent a repeat of what happened in Slave Lake, Morrison offered a blunt assessment.

      “I want to be clear,” he said at the same news conference where Notley spoke. “With the nature of this fire and the dangerous conditions we have, no size of firebreak would hold this fire from doing anything. This fire jumped the Athabasca River, which is over a kilometre wide.”

      Morrison cautioned people not to compare the two fires.

      Slave Lake was a “wind-driven” wildfire that closed in on the town at great speed, pushed by gusts of up to 100 km/h, he said. This week’s Fort McMurray wildfire is “fuel-driven” and grew so quickly because of tinder-dry conditions in an area of the province that hasn’t seen any significant rain this spring.

      The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has an active and effective fire-prevention program in place, Morrison said. But he stressed that no amount of preparedness and no protection measures would have saved Fort McMurray from the flames.

      “This fire is jumping kilometres at a time. We’re seeing fire spreads where it’s creating its own lightning fires out of this fire. This is an extreme, rare, rare fire event. And that’s something that’s historic for us.”

      Morrison said wildfires that grow and move quickly are almost impossible to stop once they get rolling.

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/fort-mcmurry-wildfire-funding-1.3570772

      (my emphasis).

      • Ad 7.1.1

        Although the oil sands area has their own fire breaks and fire crews, I sincerely hope they are up for it. Otherwise the entire oil sand fields would make for the world’s largest ever perpetual fire.

        • Sabine 7.1.1.1

          there is a lot of water within these sands. not sure they would actually burn, considering that the ‘oil’ in the sands is something that needs to be extracted before it is ‘oil’? I mean they would have had million of years worth of opportunities of burning.

          • Ad 7.1.1.1.1

            Not something to even imagine being tested.

          • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.1.2

            The oil sands = tar sands are best thought of as a kind of soft tarry bitumen. In fact, it is basically soft tarry bitumen. With a significant sand content.

            I would bet that yes, it could burn, given the right conditions.

            btw I just read an internet comment which said that every body of water within 500km of the fire had been used up by the tar sands production process.

            That’s one reason why the entire region is tinder dry.

            They’ve fucked their land for money.

    • JonL 7.2

      Fire breaks are more for access to fires than to stop fires. It’s the Ember attack that is the trouble – in a bad fire, embers can start spot fires 15 Km or more ahead of the front.
      Aussies tend to stay behind because, in theory, most of us have fire pumps, reservoirs etc, and should be prepared for most eventualities. Needless to say, you’ve got to be able to recognise early, when to stay and when to go. The Victoria fires in 09 and fires like these in Canada are “get out early and fast” type fires – pure luck if you can save your house, and the radiant heat can kill an unprotected person at over 200m from the flame front!

  7. Draco T Bastard 8

    More than 80,000 people have already left Fort McMurray, which lies in the heart of Canada’s oil sands.

    And what happens if the fire gets into those oil sands? Coal seam fire on steroids perhaps?

    • Andre 8.1

      “Coal seam fire on steroids perhaps?”

      Seems unlikely. As I understand it, the water table is very close to the surface in the oilsands region. And that the oil is a liquid (barely) means that over millennia it has flowed and closed off air channels to the subsurface. So if it does catch fire, it’s most likely going to stay on the surface.

  8. RedLogix 9

    Real heroes.

    Even as trees burned 50 feet from their control room window, and the entire plant filled with thick smoke, the nine workers continued to do their jobs. They wore dust masks, only removing them in the control room, which has an air purifier.

    The work is technical and requires critical thinking, Muirhead said. But thinking two, three, 10 or 20 steps ahead became nearly impossible, given they could grab just an hour or two of sleep over long stretches of time.

    ‘We know keeping the water going is important for the firefighters, and we’re there for them as much as they’re here for us.’
    possible, he said, especially in hard-hit areas like Abasand and Beacon Hill.

    “We are called essential services. I can’t speak for all of us, or all people in the water industry, but we kind of take that to heart,” Muirhead said.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/fort-mcmurray-water-1.3570329

    I used to do this job and I can so identify with this. Ordinary men, with an extraordinary heart and sense of duty.

  9. seeker 10

    It is very hard to comprehend the suffering and shock people, at least 80 000 of them, are going through. And the fire ‘jumps’ over huge rivers, it is simply terrifying.
    The community spirit sounds great though, and I really believed their leader when he spoke……. unlike ours in tragedy.
    I am praying for rain..big rain, please God.

  10. seeker 11

    Sorry not sure why comment duplicated and can’t edit.

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