Monday, May 09, 2016

WILDFIRE - Alberta Canada's Heartland

"In Alberta's heartland, wildfire forces thousands to flee" PBS NewsHour 5/6/2016


SUMMARY:  Since Sunday, a wildfire burning in the heart of Canada’s oil country has forced nearly 100,000 residents to flee their homes for safety, creating the largest mass evacuation in Alberta’s history.  Friday saw evacuees being ferried from the fire’s path via airlift and land convoy as the blaze spread across more than 300 square miles -- five times its original size.  Hari Sreenivasan reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Evacuees from an enormous wildfire moved to safety today in Alberta, Canada.  They were ferried out by an airlift and a land convoy from a large section of the province, the heart of the country’s oil industry.

Hari Sreenivasan reports.


HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  They rolled down a deserted highway about 50 vehicles at a time, taking evacuees south to safety.

Over the next four days, thousands will convoy from north of Fort McMurray, where they’ve been stranded, toward Edmonton.  They’re driving through a fire zone that’s roughly ten times the size of Manhattan.

Chad Morrison is Alberta’s manager of wildfire prevention.

CHAD MORRISON, Manager of Wildfire Prevention, Alberta:  No firebreak here would have stopped this fire, because this fire is jumping kilometers at a time.  We’re seeing fire spreads where, you know, it’s creating its own lightning fires out of this fire.  This is an extreme, rare, rare fire event and that’s something that’s historic for us.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  The big blaze has scorched some 1,600 homes and buildings, burning entire suburbs, but, Alberta premier Rachel Notley says the Fort McMurray city center has survived, so far.

RACHEL NOTLEY, Premier, Alberta:  As of this morning, the downtown is largely intact.  The hospital is still standing.  And municipal buildings and the airport also remain intact.  Firefighters have also been working to save as much of the residential areas as possible.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  More than 1,100 firefighters are on the fire lines, backed by 145 helicopters and 22 air tankers.  But, there’s only so much they can do.

The fire first broke out Sunday, and by Tuesday, towering walls of flames closed in on the city, with a blanket of thick smoke choking the sky.

Some 88,000 residents fled for their lives, many of them to evacuation centers to the south.

"Growing wildfire in Canadian oil town displaces tens of thousands" PBS NewsHour 5/7/2016


SUMMARY:  At least 1,600 homes and buildings have burned this past week in a fire in Alberta, Canada that continues to grow.  So far no injuries have been reported, but more than 80,000 people have been displaced.  New York Times reporter Ian Austen joins Megan Thompson via Skype from Canada to discuss.

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