Fort McMurray's 80,000 Climate Refugees
Paul Beckwith on Alberta’s fires
Fort McMurray was incinerated in a wildfire creating 80,000 climate refugees overnight. As tragic as this fire was, it is just one more city being destroyed in our climate change casino. Every city on our planet is vulnerable. Governments must do the right thing and declare a global climate change emergency.
No mention that Fort McMurray is in the tar sands area of Alberta from CNN or anyone else – even though you can see it from Space
Fort McMurray fire: Entire city forced to flee as inferno rages
4 May, 2016
The sky in northern Alberta's Fort McMurray resembled a wall of fire and smoke Wednesday as a mammoth inferno swallowed parts of the Canadian city.
Authorities ordered the evacuation of about 88,000 people, including the entire city of Fort McMurray, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said.
The blaze has already destroyed 80% of Fort McMurray's Beacon Hill community, RM Wood Buffalo said.
In all, some 1,600 structures have been destroyed by the fire, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said. However, there have been no reports of deaths or injuries, officials said.
High winds, warm weather and dry conditions were expected to create "explosive conditions" for fire growth and make it difficult for firefighters to keep up, Alberta forestry manager Bernie Schmitte said.
The fire is "challenging all of us," he said.
Paul Spring said his neighborhood went down in flames.
"The whole subdivision is gone," the longtime pilot and firefighter said. "Things are pretty horrible right now. We've been out flying and surveying the damage."
Spring is the president of Phoenix Heli-Flight. Despite his loss, he hasn't stopped working.
"All our efforts to control and contain the fire were challenged by this extreme fire behavior," Schmitte said. "Efforts were also hampered by smoke conditions. Basically fire behavior was beyond all control efforts."
The good news: "Conditions are set to improve over the next couple of days," CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said.
Temperatures that soared to 32.6 Celsius (90.6 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday will drop to the low 20s C (60s F) on Thursday and Friday -- giving firefighters a hand in combating the blaze, Jones said.
The main challenge ahead: fierce winds gusting in different direction.
"If it's constantly changing direction in different ways, it's hard to control a fire," Jones said.
The wildfire, which began Sunday, had already torched 7,400 acres by Tuesday, CNN partner CBC News said. The cause of the blaze remains unclear.
Driving through a blanket of smoke
Jordan Stuffco filmed the exodus out of Fort McMurray. Drivers plowed through thick clouds of black smoke as flames shot up nearby.
"My harrowing drive evacuating #ymm praying for my friends," Stuffco tweeted.
YMM is the airport code for Fort McMurray.
The only hospital in the city, Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, evacuated all 105 patients, the Alberta government said.
"I am out. I am safe," tweeted one resident. "I've never been more scared in my life. Praying for my home right now."
Spring, the helicopter pilot who lost his home, said his company has been scrambling to fly patients from the evacuated hospital to other medical facilities.
Mark Jones told CNN his neighborhood went from a voluntary evacuation to a mandatory one in an our.
"It took me about three hours to get out of town," he said. "Once the evacuation started, everything was in gridlock. Traffic was going in one direction. There were people going in ditches and everywhere."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country stands ready to help.
"Canada's a country where we look out for our neighbors," he said. "We are there for each other in difficult times."
He said those wanting to help can donate to the Canadian Red Cross.