A massive wildfire has devastated the oil town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, where overnight on Tuesday, the city’s entire population of 80,000 residents were ordered to evacuate. The wildfire, which started over the weekend, has already burned more than 74,000 acres. In one neighborhood, 80 percent of the homes were reported destroyed.
The Toronto Star reports officials are seeking help form the Canadian military to assist in controlling the crisis, with high temperatures and clouds of smoke continuing to envelop the region. As firefighters struggled to contain the fire on Wednesday, fire chief Darby Allen indicated that powerful winds still threatened to exacerbate the situation.
“I would say it’s been the worst day of my career,” Allen told CBC Ottawa. “The people here are devastated, everyone’s devastated, the community is going to be devastated. This is going to take us awhile to come back from, but we’ll come back.”
“It’s a nasty, ugly fire and it is not showing any forgiveness,” he added.
On social media, residents fleeing the area reported scenes of chaos:
My harrowing drive evacuating #ymm praying for my friends pic.twitter.com/XGFWfavqR2
— Jordan J Stuffco (@jstuffcocrimlaw) May 3, 2016
#ymmfire Us getting out of Beacon Hill! My childhood home and everything I’ve ever known is burnt to the ground. 🙁 pic.twitter.com/eY1KmCVIvi
— Holly Ayearst (@hollerslyfe) May 4, 2016
Fire has now crossed to Beacon Hill. Into Fort McMurray. We’re trying to get out. pic.twitter.com/gb3Vz8jRnb
— Reid Fiest (@ReidFiest) May 3, 2016
On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered to provide Fort McMurray with federal assistance, pledging to support residents through the crisis.
“I really do want to highlight that Canada is a country where we look out for our neighbors and we are there for each other in difficult times,” Trudeau said. “And certainly in Fort McMurray, the difficult times they are going through right now is something that we are going to unite around.”
As Climate Central explains, the Fort McMurray fire 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.”
Click below to watch Climate Desk’s video explaining the link between climate change and wildfires: