Wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray, Canada, tar sands oil center

This video from Alberta, Canada says about itself:

Fort McMurray wildfire: Why the fire engulfed the city within hours

By Brent Patterson in Canada:

Evacuation order issued for Fort McMurray as wildfire threatens area

May 4, 2016

As a wildfire devastates the Fort McMurray area, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted, “Horrible! Hearts go out to residents!”

CBC reports:

“A huge wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., destroyed an entire neighbourhood and burned homes and businesses in several others Tuesday, and continues to rage out of control. By late afternoon, the entire city of 60,000 had been ordered evacuated. Residents by the thousands fled the fire, and for hours caused gridlock on Highway 63, and even overwhelmed oilsands work camps [north of the city], where beds and meals were offered. Fire chief Darby Allen said the entire neighbourhood of Beacon Hill ‘appears to have been lost’ and the fire burned many homes in other parts of the city.” …

In addition, the Fort McKay First Nation, which is located about 50 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, has opened camps on its territory to people fleeing Fort McMurray. And Crystal Lameman has posted, “Beaver Lake Cree Nation Spruce Point Camping is available for evacuees, the resort is equipped w: 100 stalls (25 with power). BLCN has also offered the use of community hall parking lot if needed, for trailers.”

The National Observer notes:

“‘It’s apocalyptic,’ said John O’Connor, a family physician who has treated patients with health problems in the region related to oil sands pollution. He said there was no way out but north. ‘The place looks like it’s all going,’ O’Connor said. Anyone breathing the ash-filled air would be facing serious health risks, he added.”

The province’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says there have already been 311 fires in Alberta this season.

Every year an area half the size of Nova Scotia burns in Alberta.

Mike Flannigan, a professor with the University of Alberta’s Western Partnership for Wildland Fire, says the average amount of land reduced to ash by wildfire in Alberta annually has doubled since the 1970s.

The wildfire is being attributed in part to the El Nino effect, which causes warmer and drier winters. Global News highlights:

“Judith Kulig, professor in the faculty of health sciences at the University of Lethbridge, said the effects of climate change are also driving the increase in wildfires, and it’s not going to get better in the future. ‘The whole aspect of climate change and global warming, which is then interrelated things such as insect infestation, so pine beetle increases because it’s not a cold enough winter,’ she said. ‘The trees are infested and drier and more prone to fire. In general, we’ve had less rainfall; we didn’t really have a winter this year. And so consequently we have a very dry environment.'”

Our thoughts are with the people and wildlife affected by this devastating situation.

By Roger Jordan in Canada, 5 May 2016:

A number of tar sands companies have cut or entirely shut down production at plants located near Fort McMurray. Shell has shut down its Albion Sands site, while Suncor Energy has cut staffing levels.

The Fort McMurray blaze is only the largest fire in a growing number burning across western Canada. Dry weather conditions over the winter and an unusually warm spring, linked to the strong El Nino weather effect, forced Alberta to declare the start of its fire season on March 1, a month earlier than usual. Eleven forest fires are currently burning in the province.

Yesterday, 300 residents of Lac Ste. Anne County, including from the Alexis First Nation, were evacuated as a wildfire threatened their homes.

In neighbouring British Columbia, authorities had to turn down a request for help from Alberta because their own resources are seriously stretched by numerous fires raging in the Peace River region in the province’s northeast. Since April 1, almost 200 fires have burned across 230 square kilometres of BC.

Two weeks ago, the Peace River Regional District declared a state of emergency, resulting in evacuation orders for the Baldonnel community, the Blueberry First Nation and parts of Fort St. John. At the time, 48 fires were burning in the area.

Predictions are that the fire season this year will be much worse than previous years, even the record year of 2015 when over 10,000 people were evacuated from communities in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Mike Flannigan of the University of Alberta said that the number of fires which have broken out in 2016 is double the number at the same time this year.

Under these conditions, Alberta’s provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) government took the outrageous decision last month to slash this year’s wildfire management budget by $15 million. This comes on top of moves by the previous Progressive Conservative government in March 2015 to cut funding for the Firesmart program, which clears debris and trees in proximity to residential areas to prevent the spread of fires. …

The woeful lack of preparedness at all levels of government for catastrophes like the one confronting Fort McMurray is even less forgivable given the widespread evidence of increased risk of wildfires due to climate change. Last year, Canada had to call on assistance from fire crews as far away as Australia to cover firefighting needs.

The damage wrought by the fire is occurring in a community that has already been hit hard by the economic crisis and the collapse in oil prices. Unemployment in the Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo region increased 40 percent between January 2015 and January 2016, a figure which is likely an underestimation since many workers in the energy sector travel to the region temporarily for employment. Last month, the unemployment rate reached close to 10 percent.

A teacher from a Fort McMurray school spoke to the WSWS about the evacuation. He was given 15 minutes to pack personal belongings and leave the city, along with his girlfriend, her parents, and two dogs. He added that fire services had kept him and his pupils confined to their school for a large part of the day prior to the evacuation announcement.

After leaving the city, he came to a stretch of highway that had been jumped by the fire. Police officers permitted ten vehicles at a time to make a run for it and drive at high speed across the smoking stretch of roadway. As his truck passed through, a gas pipe under the road exploded next to his vehicle.

Entire Canadian City Faces Being Reduced to Ashes by Huge Fire: here.

Here’s how you can help as the Fort McMurray fires continue to rage (updated), by Mercedes Allen, May 4, 2016: here.

2013 article on tar sands oil around Fort McMurray: Blame Canada: Greedy for oil money, the country is turning into a rogue petrostate: here.

Community members and allies hold healing walk past toxic tailings ponds north of Fort McMurray: here.

By Emily Hunter in 2009:

But in Fort McMurray, it wasn’t what was on the surface or the individual people that presented a problem. What was scary about Fort Mac was how there was something subversive about the town. The driving force behind the town and literally beyond the horizon, past the trees, was an empire that ruled — dirty oil.

It was this dirty oil that everyone in the town either directly or indirectly had a job from. The town’s economy was dependent on oil, the rapid population and infrastructure was coming from it, in turn Fort McMurray had been put on the map because of it. The boom it had created was the source of social evils. And because of the transient nature of the boomtown, few felt that Fort Mac was a home and there was an underlining sense that everyone just wanted to leave.

Fort McMurray was haunting because of this. On the outside, it looks like any town you’d find in North America. But underneath, dirty oil is king. And just as the town has very much been created on oil, it can all go just as fast when the oil boom is over — making it a ghost town one day. Here it is clear that life and communities are but a cost of prosperity.

Canadians Share Shocking Footage From Cities Engulfed By ‘Catastrophic’ Wildfire. “It’s a loss on a scale that is hard for many of us to imagine,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: here.

Canadian big business is increasingly impatient with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government over its as yet unrealized pledge to bring Alberta tar sands oil to tidewater. While the immediate trigger for the complaints is the stalled Canadian $7.9 billion Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline project, powerful sections of the corporate elite are complaining that investment in Canada is at risk of becoming “uncompetitive”: here.

6 thoughts on “Wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray, Canada, tar sands oil center

  1. Pingback: Wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray, Canada, tar sands oil center — Dear Kitty. Some blog | My Wonderful World

  2. Pingback: Fort McMurray, Canada wildfire disaster continues | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Alberta wildfire in Canada continues | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Canadian Fort McMurray wildfire, natural and social disaster | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Canadian tar sands pipeline controversy | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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