Wednesday, February 21

Canada’s Out Of Control Fire Doubles In Size



A wildfire that is raging across the province of Alberta is due to become Canada’s costliest natural disaster later today, after reaching the size of Warwickshire.

The blaze, which has forced the evacuation of 88,000 people from the city of Fort McMurray, doubled in size on Saturday to around 494,000 acres, according to firefighters.

The English county of Warwickshire is 488,000 acres.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale warned that the situation in the parched Alberta oil sands region was “unpredictable and dangerous”.

Officials said the inferno is being propelled by high winds northeast towards neighbouring Saskatchewan province.

The tinder-dry forests that are fuelling the fire also surround an oil sands facility, which some officials fear could be under threat.

About half the country’s oil output – half a million barrels-a-day – have been taken offline as a result.

But some experts said they were confident the Suncor Energy facility would not be at risk as it was designed to cope with forest fires.

Chad Morrison, the province’s manager of wildfire prevention, said: “They are clear of vegetation and trees … they also have highly trained industrial fire departments that know how to respond to these incidents.”

But he added that unless there is substantial rainfall, the fire might easily last for months.

More than 500 firefighters are battling the blaze in and around Fort McMurray, along with 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers, the Alberta government said.

Entire neighbourhoods have been reduced to ash and many of the families living in the city are understood to have lost everything other than the few items they were able to take with them.

Many were forced to leave pets behind.

Thousands have been seeking shelter at receptions centres in Lac La Biche and other towns south of Fort McMurray.

One analyst has estimated insurance losses could exceed $9bn (£4.8bn).

In comparison, the 2013 floods that devastated southern Alberta caused $5bn of damage, according to Alberta Construction Magazine.

Elsewhere in Alberta, more than 1,400 firefighters, about 133 helicopters and more than 27 air tankers have been fighting other fires across the province.