This morning, we spoke with NFPA’s Canadian Regional Director, Shayne Mintz, based in Ontario, Canada to gain some understanding of the wildfire and its impact. He shared that, “With the near drought-like conditions in British Columbia and Alberta [Canada], over the past two years and the unusually high spring temperatures – coupled with low humidity, this is definitely unusual and it sets the stage for a potentially bad fire season.” He added that, “temperatures in Alberta are some of the warmest in Canada right now because of weather patterns that have highs in the 80s(f).
To better understand this area of Canada, Shayne relayed that it is in the northern arboreal forests and is a big economic area for timber, oil, and gas extraction. Fort McMurry is the home of Canada’s large oil sands production facilities and was not a big community until the oil boom of the past decade.
I asked Shayne about the current evacuations and he shared that, “the community is served by one highway in and out with one bridge on Highway 63 into Fort McMurray. Since a southern evacuation has presented challenges, many residents are fleeing north to camp areas and mining camps. These commercial mining camps are airlifting or otherwise relocating staff to facilitate evacuees.” He added that local press has already marked this as the largest evacuation in Alberta history and that the wildfire has eclipsed the home loss of the 2011 Slave Lake, Alberta, wildfire.
Shayne’s shared that his message to both Canadian and NFPA audiences elsewhere, “is that communities can help defend against wildfires by applying the principles of FireSmart, and for more information, visit www.firesmartcanada.ca to learn more on how to help reduce the wildfire risk they may face in their communities”
Photo Credit: Terry Reith/CBC (5 May 2016, Wildfires: The science of how they spread and how they're stopped - Technology & Science - CBC News )