Fort Mac devastation frays nerves, sends oil prices higher and mobilizes a nation
The Fort McMurray fire is a disaster on a national scale, and its impact can't yet be estimated
As the province declared a state of emergency May 4, it was clear the situation that had forced the evacuation of 80,000 people was “unstable,” as Scott Long of Alberta Emergency Management told reporters.
Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said the state of emergency allows the province to take full control of the situation, conscript people if necessary, and bulldoze structures as required.
“We are still in the throes of an intense crisis,” said Larivee.
There were dangerous and dramatic developments on multiple fronts in a story that has made headlines worldwide with stunning video footage of trucks and cars driving past sheer walls of flame.
There were haunting images of scorched trucks, charred homes and telephone poles, burned out from the bottom up, hanging in the wires like little wooden crosses.
The wildfires that had already torched 1,600 homes and other buildings in Fort McMurray continued to do damage throughout the day. Reports of homes being burned mounted, while officials advised a new school being built in one neighbourhood had been destroyed.
There was good news—the water treatment plant was saved, and Long said the downtown core was being held “through some Herculean efforts” of firefighters. Most importantly, there was still no indication of injury or death.
Reuters is reporting that the fire has stoked concern among investors over a near-term supply shortage, driving crude prices up on May 5.
Brent crude futures rose $1.11 on the day to $45.73 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures gained $1.36 to $45.14.
The Canadian military has deployed helicopters and transport planes in response—with more support to come as needed.
Four CH-146 Griffon helicopters are en route to perform evacuations in surrounding communities under threat from the raging blaze. Another two choppers are on standby at 408 Squadron in Edmonton.
Additionally, a C-130J Hercules has been moved to the nearby military airfield in Cold Lake, while a second Hercules and a C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift transport on standby at the country’s largest military airbase in Trenton, Ont., to aid in the movement of firefighters and equipment.
Brig.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, who is in charge of the 3rd Canadian Division and the military commander for Western Canada, called it a “very dynamic” situation, saying planners are looking ahead at what kind of requests could come next.
At one point when it didn’t look like a large-scale evacuation of the city would be possible, the air force was on standby with transport aircraft to go in, Eyre said from Edmonton during a conference call.
Eyre said the Hercules is well-suited for landing on remote roads and could be employed getting firefighters into isolated locations.
Labatt Breweries of Canada is mobilizing its Canadian Disaster Relief effort to donate more than 69,000 cans of emergency drinking water
An additional 131,000-plus cans are at the ready and will be shipped if emergency conditions warrant later this week.
A truck carrying more than 2,880 cases of water that meets disaster specifications departed from the brewer’s Alberta distribution centre. The shipment is destined for same-day delivery at the Edmonton emergency centre for donation to firefighters and displaced residents with the greatest need.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley flew up to survey the situation first-hand, and tweeted “heartbreaking” pictures of the fire from above. As high as her helicopter was, she said the plumes of smoke reached even higher.
The Red Cross is taking donations here