Wildfire Forces 80,000 Residents to Evacuate Fort McMurray
According to officials, approximately 80,000 people were forced to evacuate Fort McMurray, Alberta, and the surrounding area due to a large wildfire. The fire began on the afternoon of May 1, and experts believe it may have started as a result of dry, humid conditions.
With strong winds forecasted and Fort McMurray being the home to the third largest oil reserve in the world, the future spread and ferocity of the fire is unknown. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has stated that ensuring the health and safety of Canadians in the area is the first priority.
The Canadian wildfire season runs from April to October and generally sees around 9,000 blazes during that time. This year’s wildfire season has already led to 311 fires in Alberta alone, according to the province’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
To protect your loved ones and your property, keep the following safety tips in mind this wildfire season:
Before and during wildfire season:
- Prepare an emergency kit and escape plan.
- Install smoke detectors on each floor of your home.
- Learn fire safety techniques and teach them to all members of your family.
- Consult with your local fire department about making your home fire-resistant.
- Leave approximately 10 metres of space between flammable objects (trees, brush, fuel cans, firewood, etc.) and your home whenever possible.
- Clear anything from the roof that could act as fuel for airborne embers, such as tree branches and pine needles.
- Check that your home insurance policy is up to date and that your belongings are covered.
When a wildfire is present:
- Monitor local radio stations and emergency alerts. Have a battery-powered radio-ready in case of power failure.
- Ensure your vehicles are fueled and operational.
- Be prepared to evacuate the area at any time.
- Try to remain in your home until the fire danger drops.
- Keep in touch with any absent family members.
- Turn on the lights in the house, porch, garage, and yard.
- Turn off natural gas, propane, and oil sources.
- Do not ignite any new fires, and report any open fires or smoke to authorities.
When an evacuation order is given:
- Plan to evacuate with enough items to keep your family comfortable for at least five days.
- If possible, cover all openings with metal coverings or fire-resistant material. This helps keep sparks and embers out.
- If possible, move any combustibles far away from the house.
- Prevent drafts by closing windows, vents and doors.
- If you have an outdoor pool or hot tub, make is as accessible as possible for firefighters. Inside your home, fill sinks and tubs with water.
- If possible, fill garbage cans and buckets with water and leave them where firefighters can easily find them.
- Move away from the wildfire, never toward it.
- Follow your pre-planned evacuation route or the route signaled by authorities on-site.
- Drive carefully with your headlights on and make way for pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
- Stop at the predetermined marshalling point. Report to authorities and wait for further instructions. Do not leave again without informing officials.
- Do not return to your property until permitted to do so by authorities.