Fort McMurray wildfire

183 posts / 0 new
Last post
Left Turn Left Turn's picture
Fort McMurray wildfire

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

Wow, ust wow, that nobody has started a thread on this yet!

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

[url= Canadian City Faces Being Reduced to Ashes by Huge Fire[/url]


Fire raged unchecked through the Canadian city of Fort McMurray overnight as authorities raced to complete the evacuation of its population of 80,000, fearful that hot, dry winds forecast for Wednesday would further fan the flames.

About 44,000 people were estimated to have fled the city by late on Tuesday on traffic-choked roads, and the province of Alberta requested military help to bring the blaze under control and airlift others from fire- and smoke-filled streets.

"I'm afraid that huge parts of my home town... may burn tonight and will continue to burn," Brian Jean, leader of Alberta's official opposition party, told CBC Radio, saying his own home was in the immediate path of the flames.

The fire in the heart of Canada's oil sands region broke out southwest of the city on Sunday, shifting aggressively with the wind to breach city limits on Tuesday, when its size was estimated at 26.5 square kilometers (6,540 acres).

It destroyed one residential neighborhood in the southeast, and others were severely damaged or under threat, Chief Darby Allen of Fort McMurray's fire department said.

The blaze also temporarily closed off the main southern exit from the city, Highway 93, prompting many residents to flee north toward the oil sands camps.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley described the evacuation as the biggest in the province's history.

Officials said army and air force assistance would take two days to arrive, and they expected to face another day of battling the flames on Wednesday, when relatively low humidity, hot temperatures and high winds were in the forecast.

No casualties had been reported, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said early on Wednesday on Twitter, and its mayor Melissa Blake said at least one baby was born at a lodging for energy workers being used as an evacuation site.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

[url=]Br... Updates on the Fort McMurray Wildfire[/url]


88,000 people were evacuated. some refugees are coming here to their family.



FWIW, in humanitarian-speak, one is a 'displaced person' until such time as one crosses an international border. Only then does one qualify for the term 'refugee'. 


We have had so little snow this year. That has been a huge problem. Another fire west of Edmonton is threatening a FN community.


sherpa-finn wrote:
FWIW, in humanitarian-speak, one is a 'displaced person' until such time as one crosses an international border. Only then does one qualify for the term 'refugee'. 

i used the word on purpose so any haters of refugees can maybe get a sense of empathy if they happen across this discussion. i'm so fkn po'd at some red neck haters at the moment.

and distance equivalents say several European counties are being crossed through when comared to coming from Ft Mac to pretty much anywhere. ;)

imv if AB hadn't privatized wild fire forest services years ago the last fire in Slave Lake and this one would not have gotten so out of control. there should be huge interface areas between urban and wildness.


quizzical wrote:

sherpa-finn wrote:
FWIW, in humanitarian-speak, one is a 'displaced person' until such time as one crosses an international border. Only then does one qualify for the term 'refugee'. 

i used the word on purpose so any haters of refugees can maybe get a sense of empathy if they happen across this discussion. i'm so fkn po'd at some red neck haters at the moment.

and distance equivalents say several European counties are being crossed through when comared to coming from Ft Mac to pretty much anywhere. ;)

imv if AB hadn't privatized wild fire forest services years ago the last fire in Slave Lake and this one would not have gotten so out of control. there should be huge interface areas between urban and wildness.

When you say interface areas I assume you mean areas where the Boreal forest needs to be cut back? That was the lesson from Slave Lake that people were saying at the time. This is the second city to be lost in 5 years.


jjuares wrote:
We have had so little snow this year. That has been a huge problem. Another fire west of Edmonton is threatening a FN community.

And a grass fire took out a rail bridge in Saskatchewan in March.

A real double whammy for Fort Mac. First the economy has been hit hard with the crash in oil prices, and now it looks like the entire city risks burning down. Makes the point clear that climate change is a clear and present danger. I wonder how Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean (who represents the area) will spin this.


jjuares wrote:
quizzical wrote:
imv if AB hadn't privatized wild fire forest services years ago the last fire in Slave Lake and this one would not have gotten so out of control. there should be huge interface areas between urban and wildness.

When you say interface areas I assume you mean areas where the Boreal forest needs to be cut back? That was the lesson from Slave Lake that people were saying at the time. This is the second city to be lost in 5 years.

yup.  interface areas and ladder fuels are an issue in BC and AB.

BC a bit better but not much and only because we've a dedicated public wild fire policy not a privatized one. it was better back in the NDP days. another loss to tax payers who  paid to build good public infrastructure.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

The out of control forest fires are part and parcel of the climate change future we are all facing.  The irony of this fire and what it has done to this city is poignant. 


An unusually intense May wildfire roared into Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in province history. The flames rode the back of hot, windy weather that will continue through Wednesday and could pick up again this weekend.

The wildfire is the latest in a lengthening lineage of early wildfires in the northern reaches of the globe that are indicative of a changing climate. As the planet continues to warm, these types of fires will likely only become more common and intense as spring snowpack disappears and temperatures warm.

“This (fire) is consistent with what we expect from human-caused climate change affecting our fire regime,” Mike Flannigan, a wildfire researcher at the University of Alberta, said.



has anyone read WHAT started the fire?


quizzical wrote:

has anyone read WHAT started the fire?

[url= of lightning suggests a human caused Fort McMurray fire: professor[/url]


Humans are the leading cause of wildfires in Canada, says a forest fire researcher who believes the latest blaze that has ripped through parts of Fort McMurray, Alta., is no exception.

Mike Flanagan, a professor of wildland fires at the University of Alberta, says the fire's proximity to the city, as well as data that shows there were no lightning strikes in the area, lead him to believe the cause of the fire was likely human.

"And in spring it's heavily loaded on the side of people-caused fires," Flanagan said.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..from the weather channel

The Science Behind the Explosive McMurray Wildfire And How the Inferno Is Creating Its Own Weather

The destructive fire that hit Fort McMurray in Canada's Alberta province was in an area that was ripe for the potential of rapidly spreading wildfires. And the fire was so intense that it even generated its own weather.


Aristotleded24 wrote:

 I wonder how Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean (who represents the area) will spin this.

His house burned down, as did his business. He declined a leading question inviting him to say "I told you so" on As It Happens last night.

The link is partway down this page. I remember thinking what an incredibly thoughtful person it was, and was surprised at the end of the interview to learn it was him.





Thanks for the background info, quizzical.

I think this is a great opportunity for Albertans to show the rest of Canada how the private sector takes care of its own. Alberta has always been about self sufficiency and the trickle-down benefits of elevating corporate interests above public interests. Let's see how that works now that the shit has hit. Go, Wild Rosers!


This is going to be the costiest natural disaster in Canada's history. The BMO says it is estimating 9 billion. That is only property damage and doesn't include the cost of fighting the fire or the economic dislocation which will also be huge.


Don't read it then, Smith.

Oh, "now's not the time for pointing fingers..." It never is, is it?


jas wrote:

Thanks for the background info, quizzical.

I think this is a great opportunity for Albertans to show the rest of Canada how the private sector takes care of its own. Alberta has always been about self sufficiency and the trickle-down benefits of elevating corporate interests above public interests. Let's see how that works now that the shit has hit. Go, Wild Rosers!

What a fucking idiot thing to say.

Since you put it out there, though:

And another article I read this morning mentions that people in that area are a lot better prepared than some because of their training and access to farm and other heavy equipment. I will post when I find it.



Basement Dweller

jjuares wrote:
This is going to be the costiest natural disaster in Canada's history. The BMO says it is estimating 9 billion. That is only property damage and doesn't include the cost of fighting the fire or the economic dislocation which will also be huge.

Speaking of banks, that's a lot of mortgages going up in flames too. I assume CMHC will be ready to absorb the loses.

Anyhow, wishing the best for everyone suffering from this disaster and thankfully no one has died (that we know of).


Hurtin Albertan

I'll post some more later on when I am not at work. 

We haven't privatized or outsourced wildfire in Alberta, I should know, I do this for a living.  Sure, some things are contracted out but I have no idea what exactly quizzical is talking about.

Anyways, if anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.  I have lots to say on this topic, always happy to educate people and clear up misconceptions.


Pointing fingers in a disaster is a zero-class move from the start. It is another thing doing it without clear evidence, just to gloat and set people against one another, and without bothering to get a bit of background before you open your mouth. Surely you are aware this is not first major disaster (not even the first major fire disaster) to hit that province in recent years. A few years ago it was floods. And before that it was Slave Lake.

For that matter we had a community evacuated here in Saskatchewan last season because of wildfires. Did our capitalist machine crash and burn like you wanted it to?

I might not agree with Brian Jean's politics, and I don't know to what degree his comments were in earnest, or just having the good sense to know when to not say something that would really embarrass him.

But at least I give him credit for having that good sense in this case. Even though he lost his home.


There was a death - a collision on the highway.

And regarding insurance, well you can read the news to see how smoothly that has gone after the floods.



And this is the question Jean refused to take the bait on on CBC.


With dry conditions and dozens of blazes already burning across Alberta, Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday her government’s decision to slash the wildfire budget by $15 million this year won’t impact the province’s firefighting efforts.


kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Pointing fingers in a disaster is a zero-class move from the start. It is another thing doing it without clear evidence, just to gloat and set people against one another, and without bothering to get a bit of background before you open your mouth. Surely you are aware this is not first major disaster (not even the first major fire disaster) to hit that province in recent years. A few years ago it was floods. And before that it was Slave Lake.

For that matter we had a community evacuated here in Saskatchewan last season because of wildfires.

This is just the latest and certainly will not be the last of extreme weather events that are caused by climate change. It is the height of stupidity in the face of this glaring evidence of the catastrophe that is unfolding to be preaching, like Trudeau and Notley are doing, that building pipelines so that other countries can burn bitumen is the way forward to a green future.  

Given the price of oil and the cost of pipelines to export the filthy bitumen the whole project is not economically viable and it is environmentally destructive. My hope for the people who have lost their homes is that they were well insured so that they can move on to greener pastures as the tar sands projects collapse. 


I agree with you, about the climate change, k. And the connections between climate change and the oil industry are also clear.

I don't see why Trudeau should have backed away from that question, and attacked Elizabeth May for it.

It is a kind of tacit denial, really. El Nino is increasing in frequency, so there are a lot of factors, but why do we have thousands of hectares of dead, tindery-dry forest if not for the fact that we have not had winters cold enough to keep spruce budworm out of the boreal forest? And what is the problem with drawing that connection?



Hurtin Albertan wrote:
I'll post some more later on when I am not at work. 

We haven't privatized or outsourced wildfire in Alberta, I should know, I do this for a living.  Sure, some things are contracted out but I have no idea what exactly quizzical is talking about.

Anyways, if anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.  I have lots to say on this topic, always happy to educate people and clear up misconceptions.

when i fought fires a few years back here in BC, there was a bunch of concern going on about what AB was privatizing and how it was going to jeopordize their ability to rapid respond and IA respond.

i for one would love to hear all you say. we are fighting trying to get the interface areas cleared out as they're all dead or dying pine beetle.

eta and thank you for stopping in it's gotta be crazy there.

and officials say they are now water bombing the city to keep it from being overwhelmed by flames....."Our first priority, obviously, was the community and the homes as well as the critical infrastructure."

Morrison said they had 22 water bombers and were bringing in more, including four from Quebec.

"But let me be clear: air tankers are not going to stop this fire.

"It (the fire) is going to continue to push through these dry conditions until we actually get some significant rain."

The fire, which had been menacing Fort McMurray since the weekend, rode a rapid shift in winds Tuesday afternoon to cut through the city on an east-west axis, cutting the main road and sending 80,000 residents fleeing in polar opposite directions under a mandatory evacuation order.

Aided by high winds, scorching heat and low humidity, the fire grew from 75 square kilometres Tuesday to 100 square kilometres on Wednesday, but by Thursday it was almost nine times that — at 850 square kilometres.



Hurtin Albertan wrote:
Anyways, if anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

Are you in or around Fort Mac? If so, please stay safe and good luck.

Basement Dweller

6079_Smith_W wrote:

And regarding insurance, well you can read the news to see how smoothly that has gone after the floods.

Of course, but CMHC payouts go to the banks, not disaster survivors.

Hurtin Albertan

I'm still in my home district.  We have been very busy around here, but we have been lucky enough to keep the fires small.  Most of our work has been helping out the county fire departments with wildfires in their jurisdiction. I have family up in Ft McMurray, anyways all my family is safe and the house is fine.

The boreal forest is shaped by fire, has been for a long, long time.  If you look at Alberta's fire history there was almost always a bad fire season every dozen years or so.  It seems like the bad fire seasons happen more often now, guess we won't really know for sure until more time goes by to see if there really is a pattern.  The fire history statistics can be a bit misleading.  For example, there might be a huge number of "fires" in a given year, but that might include abandoned campfires that weren't going to do anything but go out on their own, or someone burning brush piles safely on a rainy day but they didn't get a fire permit from us first, etc etc.  Probably better to look at the area burned in any given year rather than the number of fires, even that can be a bit misleading.  Before GPS was used I imagine the fire size on bigger fires was probably a lot of guesswork and estimations.  Even today on a big fire, we might GPS the fire perimeter and call the final size 12345 hectares, or whatever, but that doesn't mean everything inside the fire perimeter is scorched earth.  Quite common to see unburned areas inside the perimeter on big fires, and I don't think those unburned areas get deducted from the fire size because it's more work to do and really, at the end of the day, it's not like it makes much of a difference when you are trying to put it out.

Anyways, in any given year, about 99% of the area burned is from about 1% of the fires.  Not sure off the top of my head how many fires Alberta has had so far this year, but that one huge fire burning around Ft McMurray fits this trend.

Hurtin Albertan

Wildfire Management Branch in Alberta probably has several hundred full time employees, more if you count people who look after finance and payroll and those people help out on the big fires too, keeping track of all that stuff as part if the Incident Command teams.  We hire several hundred more people just for the summer, it can be a good summer job for students, some of them come back year after year even after they are done school.  I guess it gets to be a way of life for some of them.  Some of the firefighters work for contractors, we used to hire a lot of First Nations firefighters directly but we have been trying to do that through contractors in the past few years.  Almost all of the heavy equipment is hired under contract, same thing for the helicopters and air tankers.

Like just about any fire organization, we put a huge emphasis on "initial attack", the idea is to detect the fires early, quickly get to them when they are small, and hopefully put them out before they get too big.  Most of the time we are successful.  When we are not, it switches over to "sustained action", and depending on how big the fire is, how many firefighters are needed, how complicated the situation is, etc etc, there is either a smaller Incident Command team, or a much larger one.  Sometimes we are able to extinguish the fires after a couple weeks of hard work, sometimes these things just seem to go on and on all summer, for example there were fires last year up by High level that never did get extinguished completely, we stopped working on them when it snowed, and they were still smouldering this spring.

Hurtin Albertan

The Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System was a brilliant piece of work by Canadian fire scientists.  Basically, it accounts for how the fuel dries out when it is hot and dry out, or how the fuel soaks up moisture when it is cold and wet.  I think Alaska uses our system because it works better than the standard US system in Alaska's fire environment.

Without going into too much detail, this system tells us what the fire hazard is on any given day, and using weather forecasts, we can use it to predict what the fire hazard will be like in the short term, and we can use these values to do fire behaviour predictions with a pretty good level of accuracy.  When the fire hazard is low, the fires won't get very big very fast, so we might not have any helicopters hired on, if we need heavy equipment we have time to hire it and get it to the fire, and the air tankers might be parked at the airport but the pilots might be hanging out in their hotel rooms.

As the fire hazard gets higher, we start pre-positioning crews and helicopters and heavy equipment in anticipation of fire starts.  At the moment in Alberta the fire hazard is extreme.  In my district alone we have about 10 helicopters hired on, we have 3 different groups of heavy equipment hired under contract and waiting on standby, we could maybe use a few more crews but some of our firefighters are still finishing up their training courses, and we have sent crews and other staff up to Ft McMurray to help out.  We have also sent some staff up to work on the fire coming in from BC, but just a few, as BC has helpfully agreed to deal with this fire, we have more than enough other things to worry about, and that's without any new fires starting in Alberta.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

This showed up on my FB feed and I thought I would share. 

Elizabeth Todd wrote:

During the wildfires in SK, when about 10,000 people were evacuated, there was this big community effort to help the evacuees.

Which is so important.

And great.

But do not let this
Climate change moment
Turn into an act of charity.

Come together
Talk about what is happening

And strategize ways to take down the fossil fuel industry.

Nobody should have to fundraise or volunteer
To save communities
In the path of climate violence

Don't stand around with giant cheques
For devastated communities
For your newsletters

And forget to talk about
The emerging climate reality.

Make noise
And call it for what it is:

It is not just a tragedy
It is not just a weather event

It is the very real impacts of climate change
That people globally are living with
That people globally are dying from

And in SK
When the wildfires roamed
We paid for it
Out of research chairs
Maintenance budgets
And scholarships for students.

We paid for it
With cuts to health care
And upstream programming
That tried to mitigate health issues
At a structural level.

The act of seeing climate change events
As opportunities only for charity
And not
As a time to reflect
And organize against

Makes us participants
In the state narrative

That this is only a tragedy
That this is a fluke
That this isn't a regular occurrence.

Alberta don't forget the cuts
To the wildfire budget
Saskatchewan don't forget the cuts
To the wildfire budget

Our leaders will show up
In bomber jackets
And talk about the devastation

As if it was some kind of act of god

But be fierce in your understanding
That this is the new normal.

Call them out.

Humiliate this short term greed.

Name it and act as such.

There are many who will say
Now is not the time
But before now
Was also not the time

And it is never a good time

To be honest

About climate change

In alberta
Or saskatchewan.



Sure the boreal forest is shaped by fire. I drove past a controlled burn in jackpine bush in Jasper a few weeks ago (and right past that fire south of the 16 west of Edmonton that caused evacuations around the 18th of April). 

That is not the same as having an entire forest reduced to a dead slash pile, then catching fire.




Hurtin Albertan

It may seem a bit overkill, but all those resources would get committed very quickly if a big fire gets away on us.  And it's always a good idea to try and keep something in reserve in case another fire starts.  Normally we just worry about fires starting in the Forest Protection Area, basically the forested areas that stretch up along the Rocky Mountains, and then spread out over northern Alberta.  Fires that start outside the Forest Protection Area are usually the responsibility of a county fire department of some sort or another, but they aren't set up to deal with large wildland fires that go on for day after day after day, especially if their firefighters are volunteers.  So they call us for help, and we do what we can, but we have to keep some resources back in case fires start in our area of responsibility. 

Like I said before, in my home district we have already been very busy this spring helping out with county fires in areas that we don't normally have to worry about.  I was helping out with one of those fires yesterday.  The fire was spreading quickly and threatening nearby homes, there were fire department staff from I think 4 different fire departments working on the ground, they could have really used air tankers but we were told none were available, either they were all up at Ft McMurray or working on other fires up north.  We were able to help them out with some helicopters, and working together we managed to at least contain the fire near the end of the day, although they will still have a lot of work to do putting out all the fire inside the perimeter.

Basically all I was doing was standing nearby the fire department Incident Commander and acting as a communication link between the fire department staff on the ground and the helicopters in the air.  Making sure the helicopters were working on the priority areas, passing along updates on what the fire was doing, etc etc. 

Hurtin Albertan

I'll quit talking about basic background stuff and get more specific.

Hurtin Albertan

Our budget might have been cut, but we still have a big enough budget that even if it rained and snowed all summer, which would be nice to see right about now, we would still have a big enough budget to hire on hundreds of seasonal staff to work in our warehouses, work in our lookout towers, work at our fire bases and tanker bases, etc etc.  Some of the cotract firefighters would still be hired under contract, because some of those contracts have 90 days or more of guaranteed employment as an incentive to keep people working and coming back to work.  We even put about a dozen or so helicopters on long term contracts over the summer months with a guarantee of so many hours of work whether they are busy or not.

I'm not super familiar with the budget cuts, but it's nothing major, maybe instead of the air tankers being guaranteed 100 days of work they are now guaranteed 85 days, or whatever the details are. 

The potential downside to the budget cuts to our contracted air tanker fleet would be if we burn through all the guaranteed days early on, and then tell the companies that we don't need them around any more, they go back to Abbotsford in BC or Red Deer in Alberta and find work in other provinces and then we find out we still need them after we tell them that they are done for the season. 

Once fires start and we start spending the money, all of that comes out of a different budget, and I have never heard of any fire organization saying so very sorry, we spent all our money, too bad there is still high fire hazard and out of control fires.  We get the resources we need to get the job done, in the past maybe that meant that Alberta didn't have as big of a budget surplus, this year maybe it will mean we have a larger defecit.

Hurtin Albertan

The biggest chunk of money we spend fighting fires is spent on aircraft.  Especially if the fires are in remote locations that don't have roads, everthing and everyone has to fly in and out.  Even if there is fantastic road access everywhere around the fires, helicopters and aircraft are used as observation platforms, they are used for dropping water or fire retardant, etc etc.

It's pretty easy to spend a million dollars A DAY fighting large fires.  I haven't heard how much the Ft McMurray fire is costing a day but I wouldn't be surprised at all if we are spending several million a day. 

Hurtin Albertan

We don't have nearly the problem with beetle killed trees that BC has.  Not even close.  You can fly around Alberta, and in that huge sea of green there are small red patches here and there but nothing like the huge areas of beetle killed trees in parts of BC, at least not as far as I know of.  Might be larger dead red patches of beetle killed timber in areas closer to the BC border, it's been awhile since I've flown around by Grande Prairie or Peace River but the beetles haven't really made much of an impact past the centre of the province.  By and large we still have healthy forests in Alberta, especially on the eastern parts, and for those unfamiliar with Alberta geography, Ft McMurray is in northeastern Alberta, not too far from Saskatchewan.  Pine beetles haven't made it that far east yet, we have been spending millions of dollars for the past several years trying to control the pine beetle as best we can, while we may not be very successful at completely eradicating the little bastards we seem to have been somewhat successful in at least containing them to northwestern Alberta.

Beetle killed trees did not have any impact whatsoever on the recent fire by Ft McMurray. 

Hurtin Albertan

In my opinion, our problem is with El Nino.  We went into last fall with high drought conditions all over the province, worse in some areas, not so bad in other areas.  Usually there is enough snow that in the spring, the starting values of the fire danger rating all get reset to zero, so to speak.  We got way less snow than we "normally" would get, that's why those big fires from last summer up by High Level were still burning in the ground this spring.

And so far this spring it has been hotter and drier than it should be.  Maybe it is climate change, maybe it is El Nino, I don't really know for sure and the reason why doesn't really matter much to me right now. 

The fire west of Edmonton that 6079_Smith_W mentioned took off in a big way on April 18 because the temperatures were in the high 20's and the relative humidities were in the low 20's, maybe even lower.  I'd have to pull up weather records when I am at work, but usually in Alberta in April the temperature isn't 26 or 27 degrees and the RH isn't 18 percent.

Under those sort of weather conditions, the fuels are very dry, the fire hazard gets to be very high or extreme, and you end up with fast spreading fires that have very aggressive fire behaviour.  And the shitty part is, it's been hot and dry all fucking spring.  A big disasterous fire in Alberta was only a matter of time this spring in my opinion.


As the following article notes, the situation is going to get worse as climate change progresses.



No one knows exactly how the fire began—whether it was started by a lightning strike or by a spark provided by a person—but it’s clear why the blaze, once underway, raged out of control so quickly. Alberta experienced an unusually dry and warm winter. Precipitation was low, about half of the norm, and what snow there was melted early. April was exceptionally mild, with temperatures regularly in the seventies; two days ago, the thermometer hit ninety, which is about thirty degrees higher than the region’s normal May maximum. “You hate to use the ​cliché, but it really was kind of a perfect storm,” Mike Wotton, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, told the CBC.

Though it’s tough to pin any particular disaster on climate change, in the case of Fort McMurray the link is pretty compelling. In Canada, and also in the United States and much of the rest of the world, higher temperatures have been extending the wildfire season. Last year, wildfires consumed ten million acres in the U.S., which was the largest area of any year on record. All of the top five years occurred in the last decade. In some areas, “we now have year-round fire seasons,” Matt Jolly, a research ecologist for the United States Forest Service, recently told the Times.

“You can say it couldn’t get worse,” Jolly added, but based on its own projections, the forest service expects that it will get worse. According to a Forest Service report published last April, “Climate change has led to fire seasons that are now on average 78 days longer than in 1970.” Over the last three decades, the area destroyed each year by forest fires has doubled, and the service’s scientists project that it’s likely to “double again by midcentury.” A group of scientists who analyzed lake cores from Alaska to obtain a record of forest fires over the last ten thousand years found that in recent decades, blazes were both unusually frequent and unusually severe. “This extreme combination suggests a transition to a unique regime of unprecedented fire activity,” they concluded.

All of this brings us to what one commentator referred to as “the black irony” of the fire that has destroyed most of Fort McMurray. ...

To raise environmental concerns in the midst of human tragedy is to risk the charge of insensitivity. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alluded to this danger at a recent news conference: “Any time we try to make a political argument out of one particular disaster, I think there’s a bit of a shortcut that can sometimes not have the desired outcome.” And certainly it would be wrong to blame the residents of Fort McMurray for the disaster that has befallen them. ...

But to fail to acknowledge the connection is to risk another kind of offense. We are all consumers of oil, not to mention coal and natural gas, which means that we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno. We need to own up to our responsibility and then we need to do something about it. The fire next time is one that we’ve been warned about, and that we’ve all had a hand in starting.






While no single forest fire can be 100% directly attributed to climate change, the pattern seen in Saskatchewan, Slave Lake, Barriere, Kelowna and Fort McMurray leaves no doubt about how global warming is increasing the length of the fire season, the number and intensity of forest fires, as well as their social and economic costs to communities. 

In Saskatchewan in 2015,


more than 10,000 people from 54 communities were forced from their homes because of forest fires in 2015. More than 350 Red Cross personnel worked to provide food, clothing, shelter and emergency items for affected families while they were out of their homes.



The latest disaster economists are watching unfold is the raging wildfire near Fort McMurray, which has forced the evacuation of the entire city and has led oil giant Shell to shut down one of its operations. 

Economists say it is too early to tell just how much the fire could hurt the economy, but looking at past natural disasters can give some scope.

Robert Kavcic, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, notes that the 2011 Slave Lake wildfire caused gross domestic product to drop five per cent in the oil and gas sector, while pulling the overall economy down in the month.



Last year’s drought (so extreme the Alberta government officially classifiedit as a disaster) and El Niño conditions, which caused much of Canada to experience a mild winter, made the vegetation and soil extremely dry—and therefore prime fuel for fire.

The Alberta government lists both droughts and forest fires as extreme weather events that are made more likely by climate change. The Natural Resources Canada website, last updated Feb. 2, features a similar warning about climate-change-fuelled forest fires.




A growing body of scientific evidence shows the clear relationship between climate change and these forest fires. The Slave Lake fire "forced the complete evacuation of Slave Lake's 7,000 residents—considered the largest such displacement in the province's history at the time [and] ...  destroyed roughly one-third of Slave Lake" (, causing the Alberta government to change the length of its fire season. 



Mike Flannigan, a professor at the University of Alberta and the director of the Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science, is a leading expert on forest fires. “The area burned in Canada has increased over the past 40 to 50 years. This is due to human-caused climate change,” says Flannigan.

Flannigan says that rising temperatures in Canada lead to drying soil and vegetation, increased lightning strikes, and longer fire seasons. After the 2011 Slave Lake area wildfires, Alberta pushed the beginning of fire season from April 1 to March 1.

A 2014 study published in Science found that climate change led to an increase in lightning strikes—one of the common ways wildfires get started.

Stephen Johnston, chair of the earth and atmospheric sciences department at the University of Alberta, echoes Flannigan’s concerns. “Climate change makes extreme weather events more common. From that perspective, you could say this is more of the extreme types of weather that you’d expect.”

A 2013 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesshowed that boreal forests—the type of forest currently burning in Fort McMurray—haven’t burned so frequently in at least 10,000 years.

In Canada, there’s also evidence that more forest is burning than ever before. A January 2016 study in Climatic Change co-authored by Flannigan, said that 8,000 fires burned over two million hectares on average per year, over the past decade. According to Flannigan, previous decades saw an average of about one million hectares burn per year.



Hurtin Albertan

I'll post some information from tomorrow's fire safety briefing for my home area to put things into context.

We talk about Head Fire Intensity a lot in this field of work.  A fire starts because of lightning, or because people started it accidentally one way or another, or on purpose sometimes.  Under the influence of the weather, the topography, and the fuels involved, the fire will tend to start spreading more in one direction, which we call the head of the fire.  There are different terms used for the sides of the fire, lateral fire spread or flanking fire intensity or what have you, and generally the fire will even spread backwards to some degree or another.

The most aggressive fire will be at the head, less aggressive fire behaviour on the sides, and usually not much at the rear.  So we look at the worst case scenario, the Head Fire Intensity, or HFI.

HFI 1 means the fire starts are not very likely, if something does start we can control it pretty easily, there might not even be much open flame, it might just smoulder in the ground.  Flame height might be only a foot tall or less, you can stamp it out with a pair of good boots.  HFI 1 has an intensity of less than 10 kilowatts per metre (kw/m).  HFI 1 = NO PROBLEM, so to speak.

HFI 2 has open flames maybe up to a metre high, 10 to 500 kw/m.  A typical grass fire would be HFI 2.  Maybe it's a problem, maybe not, a lot depends on the fuel and the rates of spread, but you can still fight these fires with some success.

HFI 3is a "highly vigourous surface fire", coniferous trees (spruce and pine, fir, evergreens with needles not leaves) might go up in flames but for the most part it is still burning on the surface. The surface fire would have flame heights of 1.5 to 2.5 metres, "ground forces are effective at the lower range of this intensity class, heavy equipment and aircraft can still be used effectively on these sorts of fires. 500 - 2000 kw/m.  HFI 3 = PROBLEMS

At HFI 4, "burning conditions become critical".  It won't just be a fire on the surface of the ground, more and more coniferous trees will be flaming up if they are part of the fire, but it won't be a full-on crown fire raging through the forest just yet.  But at this level of fire intensity, the fire can throw embers or fire brands ahead of itself, otherwise known as "short range spotting".  If the fire is showing short range spotting, it can easily jump a dozer guard, or a small road and start small fires ahead of the main fire.  Surface fire flame heights will be 2.5 to 3.5 metres.  Some fire agencies use this as their "worst case scenario" because in those fuel types this is about as bad as it gets.  In those areas this class is from 2000 kw/m and up, maybe some place like Arizona wouldn't bother with any HFI class past 4 because they don't have a lot of tall forests of big trees.  Maybe Arizona is a bad example, I'm just speculating here.  But for some fire agencies HFI 4 is as bad as they bother to classify things.  In Canada HFI 4 goes from 2000 to 4000 kw/m and gets worse from there.  To sum up, HFI 4=BAD.

HFI 5 is either an intermittent crown fire that burns through the standing trees and then drops back down to a surface fire from time to time, or else is a sustained crown fire.  "Control is extremely difficult".  Short to moderate spotting will occur.  Flame heights of 3.5 to 5.5 metres.  4000 to 10000 kw/m.  HFI 5 = VERY BAD.

HFI 6 is probably what has been going on in Ft McMurray since Tuesday.  Extreme fire behaviour.  "Serious control problems" is what our briefing form says, that is a huge understatement.  Mid to long range spotting will occur.  Flame heights over 5.5 metres. 

Under current weather conditions and with the fire hazard we currently have, if a fire starts anywhere around my home area it will be either intensity class 5 or 6 depending on the fuel type.

Fires don't just start off at HFI 6 and explode out of nowhere.  That's why fire agencies put so much emphasis on fast and agressive initial attack.  A tree struck by lightning, or a carelessly discarded cigarette, or a tree on a power line, or whatever, might start off at HFI 1 or even 2, but the flames are small and it might not be spreading very quickly and if you can get to it when it is small you have a reasonably good chance of containing it.  If you take too long to get there it might be HFI 3 when you show up.  You might still be able to catch it at this point if you have a helicopter with a good pilot who can hit their targets with a Bambi bucket that hangs under the helicopter to drop water from above, if you have a nice big water source nearby for the helicopter to fill up the bucket from.  And if your helicopter still has enough fuel on board to keep dropping water for awhile.  Or depending on what is available for air tankers, you can stay a nice safe distance from the fire and either drop water and Class A foam from a skimmer type of air tanker directly onto the fire, or use the land based air tankers to drop fire retardant out ahead of the fire to hopefully act as a fuel break.

Even if the worst happens and it turns into an HFI 4, 5 or even 6 type of fire, hopefully at some point during the day the temperature drops and the humidities come up and you see a drop off in fire behaviour back down to maybe 1, 2 or 3.  You can fight fires at night this way with bulldozers, because at night the fire usually doesn't do much, the dozers can work right along the fire edge and build a lot of guard if the ground is good and the trees aren't too big.

If you don't get the fire contained the first night, the next morning it might still take a few hours for the temperature to rise, and the humidities to drop, before the fire goes from HFI 1 or 2 and starts to get too intense to safely work on.

People that I know that are "boots on the ground" in McMurray trying to do night time firefighting with water pumps and hoses are still seeing HFI 4 fire behaviour at 4 o'clock in the fucking morning.  It's about as extreme as you can get.




Forest fires have also caused major damage in BC that has been linked to global warming. 


The Kelowna and Barriere fires in the summer of 2003, which followed an extensive drought, destroyed 334 homes, with insurance claims in excess of $200 million. The Slave Lake Fire in the spring of 2011, driven by extreme winds, burned over 400 homes and businesses in Slave Lake and surrounding communities, resulting in an insured loss of $700 million. ...

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections indicate an increase of 1.4 - 5.8 oC in global mean temperature by 2100 AD, with the largest increases occurring at higher latitudes, over land, and during the winter/spring period. These temperature increases will cause projected increases in extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts, floods, and wind storms.  ...

Temperature is a key variable relative to forest fire activity for three reasons:

(1) It affects the amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold, which in turn drives the moisture content of forest fuels;

(2) It is strongly positively correlated with lightning with higher temperatures resulting in more lightning, and;

(3) Warmer temperatures result in longer fire seasons, particularly at high northern latitudes.

Since the early 1990s, fire researchers in Canada have been using the most recent climate change model projections to predict the impact of future climate change on future fire regimes, updating these projections as new models become available. Results to date can be summarized as follows:

(1) Fire danger conditions are expected to become more extreme, most significantly in west- central Canada; 

(2) Both lightning and human-caused fire occurrence will increase across Canada, particularly in the boreal zone where increases of 50-100% are expected by the late 20th century; 

(3) Area burned expected to increase, primarily across west-central Canada; 

(4) Fire seasons will become longer, with earlier springs and later falls;

(5) Forest fire severity and intensity will increase.


Hurtin Albertan

Like I said before, we used to get bad fire years every 12 or 15 years.  I sure won't deny that they seem to be happening a lot more often these days.  I think it's climate change, plus El Nino, plus the fact that we've been relatively successful at keeping fires small.

We don't have the kind of forest that can have a low intensity surface fire that burns through every so often and removes a lot of the fuel buildup on the forest floor.  Some parts of the US are like this, and you can use prescribed fire on the landbase to have a nice low intensity fire under controlled conditions while keeping the standing trees from going up in a big crown fire.

The boreal forest is evolved from large crown fires.  Back in ye olden days there were big fires on the landscape, so in most years the crown fires would burn along until they were stopped by a change in the weather, or until they hit an old burn and ran out of fuel.

You can't have a sustainable forest industry if you have huge crown fires every year.  Or if you have communities or residences or pretty much any sort of infrastructure on the land, like power lines or what have you.


In 2015, as forest fires threatened Kelowna once again, even Christy Clark, who wants to export more carbon dioxide producing LNG, admitted the connection between global warming and the intense forest fires that are threatening so many Canadian communities. 



Relentless forest fires burning across British Columbia may be the new normal, Premier Christy Clark warned as she stood not far from a raging fire that threatened homes in her own riding.

Clark spoke near the Westside Road fire outside West Kelowna on Wednesday, where flames have forced emergency officials to issue evacuation orders to the residents of 70 homes. ...

The premier said she is concerned that climate change has altered the terrain, drying out the land and making it more vulnerable to fire, and as a result what B.C. is seeing isn't unusual and will happen more often.

As of Wednesday, the province has spent more than $140 million battling the 1,300 wildfires that have broken out this season, and Clark said the province could spend another $300 to $400 million this year if the pace continues. ...

"I am mostly concerned ... that the forest fire season won't give us a break and that we're going to see more homes threatened, more people's livelihood threatened, more forest resources lost."

Clark said B.C. must continue to fight climate change, be better prepared for wildfires and have the necessary resources to fight them.


Hurtin Albertan

OK, but it's GLOBAL warming.  If we had never developed the oil sands AT ALL in Alberta, or never did anything with oil and gas in Canada, we'd still be in the same shitty position we are in today, with a much smaller and less well equipped and much less funded wildfire management program in Alberta, the weather conditions this spring would have been the exact same, the only difference would have been a small town in northeastern Alberta getting rolled over by a raging forest fire instead of a large city.

It's almost like some of you really believe the evil oil sands are to blame for this fire. 

It's like having 10 people locked in a small room with no ventilation, everybody is smoking a pack a day, but somehow one of them only smoking a half a pack a day is going to make a difference to the air quality.  Or probably closer to having one of them smoke only 23 cigarettes a day instead of a whole pack.


Many other countries, even Saudi Arabia, are shifting towards renewables leaving Canada as a major laggard in this regard. 


In January 2015 the United States produced 90% of new electrical energy from renewable sources with only 10% coming from natural gas and none from hydroelectricity (called water in the article).


Based on data from FERC and educated “other solar” (essentially rooftop solar) estimates from CleanTechnica, we’ve found that 90% of new electricity generation capacity added in the United States in January 2015 came from renewable energy sources. To be more precise, 90% came from solar and wind energy.

The largest source of new capacity came from wind energy (54.7%), rooftop solar was second (26.7%), natural gas was third (10.5%), and utility-scale solar PV brought the rest (8.1%).


The EU, UK, and Germany have already shifted in a major way towards renewables and away from fossil fuels. 


The United Kingdom blew past previous wind power records in 2014 while Germany generated a record amount of electricity from wind in December, setting the stage for 2015 to bring more industry growth across Europe. Exactly how quickly it grows, however, is contingent upon several political and regulatory decisions to come.

Using statistics from the U.K.’s National Grid, the trade association RenewableUK found that wind generated enough electricity to power just over 25 percent of U.K. homes in 2014 — a 15 percent increase from 2013. Wind turbines provided 9.3 percent of the U.K’s total electricity supply last year, a 1.5 percent boost from 2013.  ...

In December, Germany generated more wind power, 8.9 terawatt-hours, than in any previous month. According to the IWR renewable energy research institute, this record will be overtaken in 2015 as more offshore wind farms come online. ...

Across Europe, 2015 will also be a big year for renewable energy policy. Late last year the bloc released plans to legally require member countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2030. ...

According to two consulting firms, the E.U. renewables market will add 8.7 GW of wind and 10.7 GW of solar this year.


Uruguay is also moving away from hydroelectricity, as well as fossil fuels. Instead, its now investing in wind, solar and biomass, resulting in renewables providing 94.5% of its electrical energy and 55% of all its energy needs. 


In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the country’s head of climate change policy, Ramón Méndez. In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

It was a very different story just 15 years ago. Back at the turn of the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina.  ...

Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation.

Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%. ...

There are no technological miracles involved, nuclear power is entirely absent from the mix, and no new hydroelectric power has been added for more than two decades.


Denmark and Ireland are also moving towards using wind as a major source of energy instead of hydro or fossil fuels. 


Denmark set a new world record for wind production in 2014, getting 39.1 percent of its overall electricity from the clean energy source. The latest figures put the country well on track to meet its 2020 goal of getting 50 percent of its power from renewables. 

Denmark has long been a pioneer in wind power, having installed its first turbines in the mid-1970s, and has even more ambitious aims in sight, including a 100 percent renewable country by 2050.

Last year, onshore wind was also declared the cheapest form of energy in the country. ...

Ireland hits new record for wind energy

 Windy conditions in Ireland meant the country saw not one but two wind energy records set already this year.

According to figures record by EirGrid on Wednesday (Jan. 7), wind energy had created 1,942 MW of energy, enough to power more than 1.26 million homes. And while we are still only a week into 2015, this announcement marked the second time this year the country has seen this record broken. On the Jan. 1, wind energy output was at a previous high of 1,872 MW.


Another example of the movement away from fossi fuels to renewable energy other than hydro comes from the Carribean island of Bonaire.


Like many Caribbean islands, Bonaire originally relied on diesel fuel to generate electricity for residents, with a peak demand of 11 megawatts (MW). This fuel had to be shipped in from other nations, resulting in high electricity prices for Bonaire residents, along with uncertainty about when and how much prices might increase with changing fuel costs.

In 2004, everything changed when a fire destroyed the existing diesel power plant. Although tragic, the situation provided an opportunity for Bonaire to consider what kind of new electricity system to build. ...

Bonaire’s Electricity System Transformation

 The result is a transformed electricity system on Bonaire. The island is now home to 12 wind turbines with a total of 11 MW of wind power capacity, which contribute up to 90 percent of the island’s electricity at times of peak wind, and 40-45 percent of its annual electricity on average.


Scotland is already producing 98% of its electricity from wind power and plans to be export electricity by 2020, as well as be 100% fossil fuel free by 2030. Meanwhile BC continues to move against global trends in planning to develop both hydro and LNG. 



Scotland stated that wind power generated enough power to supply electricity to 98 percent of Scotland’s households in 2014.

Scotland has even bigger plans for the future — and according to a new study, these plans can be met and even exceeded. Scotland hopes to generate the equivalent of 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020 and to export non-renewable production from conventional power plants to countries like England. A new report from consultancy firm DNV-GL has found that the country could be fossil fuel-free by 2030, meaning it could do away with any fossil fuel generation, even the exported amount.


Even Saudi Arabia is getting into the act.


Saudi Arabia, the second largest Oil producer of the world is all set to slowly become the world’s largest producer of Solar Energy. The kingdom exporting 11,624,000 barrels of oil per day has realized the necessity to utilize the renewable energy sources effectively.

It looks an odd decision for the country like Saudi Arabia having such huge oil recourses and holds the second biggest market share in the global oil market. Today Saudi consumes as high as one million barrels of oil per day just to meet the electricity needs. Total of 25 percent of its oil produced per annum is consumed within the country itself. The electricity consumption is increasing every day. The time has come for the country to adopt drastic measures to control the oil consumption and shift towards renewable energy.



Even if one wants to ignore global warming, the problem is that while Canada remains addicted to fossil fuels most of the rest of the world is transitioning to renewables leaving Canada in danger of being stuck with an industry that is in danger of becoming the buggy whip industry of the 21st century. In 2011,


Global investment into renewable energy sources has for the first time surpassed monies spent on fossil fuel power plants, Bloomberg New Energy Finance has found.

Biomass, solar, wave, and wind installations drew approximately US$187 billion last year, according to the report. In contrast, a total of $157 billion was invested into traditional power sources. Bloomberg published its findings on Friday.!


In 2016 Bloomberg Business news reported:


Wind and solar have grown seemingly unstoppable.

While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels.

One reason is that renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce. Recent solar and wind auctions in Mexico and Morocco ended with winning bids from companies that promised to produce electricity at the cheapest rate, from any source, anywhere in the world, said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).  

"We're in a low-cost-of-oil environment for the foreseeable future," Liebreich said during his keynote address at the BNEF Summit in New York on Tuesday. "Did that stop renewable energy investment? Not at all."

Here's what's shaping power markets, in six charts from BNEF:

Renewables are beating fossil fuels 2 to 1Investment in Power Capacity, 2008-2015


While China is the largest carbon dioxide emitter, it is also shifting away from fossil fuels. 


Global carbon dioxide emissions have been rising consistently year after year, but decreased for the first time in 2014, according to Fatih Birol, executive director and chief economist of the International Energy Agency.

Birol spoke highly of China’s contribution to addressing climate change: “Without China, the world would not have been able to make such achievements in the area of clean energy.”

Over the past five years, 40 percent of all newly added renewable energy power was generated by China, while the country’s investment in clean and renewable energy exceeded the combined total invested by Europe and the U.S.


With the planned introduction of the Tesla 3 next year, Tesla bottom end electric car prices will fall to $35,000 driving sales upwards and beginning a shift away from gasoline as the source of automotive energy. 


Tesla hopes to have a total of a million of its electric vehicles on the road within the next five years, according to a recent report. 

The forecast came from Tesla's chief technical officer, JB Straubel, during a conference Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal. The electric carmaker expects its forthcoming mass-market vehicle—the $35,000 Model 3—to drive much of the growth. 

Tesla plans to launch the new car series in 2017....

Tesla's lofty million-car goal is very possible as long as its so-called Gigafactory is ready on time, Global Equities Research managing director Trip Chowdhry told CNBC in an email. 

The Gigafactory is where Tesla is expected to manufacture its electric car batteries starting in 2017, leading to the production of 500,000 cars per year by the end of this decade, Tesla said on its website

Read MoreTesla meeting's big takeaway: Analyst

That compares with the 55,000 Model S and X cars it expects to deliver in 2015, according to a company report last month.


On the other hand, the largest private sector coal company in the world went bankrupt in April of this year. 


Peabody Energy, the world's largest private-sector coal producer, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday in a U.S. court, citing "unprecedented" industry pressures and a sharp decline in the price of coal. ...

Peabody reported a loss of $2 billion last year. Revenue tumbled 17% to $5.6 billion as the average price and amount of coal that it sold fell. It warned of further declines this year due to reduced use of coal by U.S. utilities, along with lower demand from overseas markets.






I see it hasn't taken long for people to spout off stupid ignorant shit on social media.  Looks like a few people have been suspended from their place of employment over it too, as per usual.


I'm actually really surprised and quite proud though about a lot of the stories of generosity and chairity coming out of Albera. It sounds more like Japan and less like the USA after disasters there.