Forest Fires reach towns in Canada: Evacuations

Forest Fires reach towns in Canada: Evacuations 

17 May 2011

Alberta is currently affected by drought, strong winds and high wildfire risk. The fires currently burning have severely affected Slave Lake; a town with more than 7000 inhabitants.

MODIS (Terra) satellite image of fires burning
in Alberta on 16 May 2011 (resolution: 250m) False colour satellite image (MODIS Terra, 250 resolution)
showing fires burning South West of Slave Lake
in the early afternoon of 16 May 2011

Overview of fires burning in Alberta on 16 May 2011 Slave Lake’s location in the middle of Alberta fires

Article: Wildfire destroys half of town of 9,800

An out-of-control wildfire has burned at least half of a Canadian town of 9,800, forcing its residents to flee in a slow-moving convoy on the only highway out of town.

Hundreds of buildings in the northern Alberta town of Slave Lake have been destroyed, including the town hall and police station, CNN affiliate CTV reported. No injuries have been reported.

“It’s extremely devastating, our loss. It’s difficult to articulate,” Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee told the Globe and Mail late Sunday.

The wildfire started east of the town, then split into two and encircled the town, Rob Harris, a fire information officer with Sustainable Resource Development, told the Edmonton Journal.

Winds up to 100 kph (62 mph) fanned the flames, according to the news reports.

“It’s horrible; it’s just going to spread because houses are 10 feet apart,” Myrna Franklin said in a CTV report. “Our house is out of town, I don’t know if it’s gone yet or not.”

“The smoke is terrifying, black and just billowing. I called everyone I could get a hold if and asked them to leave if they hadn’t already,” Slave Lake resident Cindy Martin, 27, said in an e-mail quoted by the Globe and Mail. “I’m very much in panic. At this point even if our home is OK, there will not be much of the community to go back to. Who even knows if we will have a job to go back to? Our entire lives were in Slave and now it will never be the same and the fire doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.”

About 200 firefighters were battling the Slave Lake flames, according to the news reports, and more were being dispatched.

But fires are stretching resources in the province. At least 84 wildfires are burning in Alberta, with 29 of those out of control, according to the Edmonton Journal report.

Slave Lake is 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of the provincial capital of Edmonton, with a population of 9,851, according to the town’s website. Oil and gas and timber are the area’s major industries.

Published by, 16 May 2011

Article: A glance at some of Canada’s most destructive wildfires

A glance at some of Canada’s most destructive wildfires, all of which had devastating impacts on residential communities:

1825: A fire in New Brunswick’s Miramichi forest killed 160 loggers. Hundreds of others are thought to have drowned as they tried to escape via a nearby river. The villages of Newcastle and Douglastown were destroyed.

1870: A brushfire touched off a blaze in Quebec that destroyed everything in its path over a 150-kilometre swath of land, from the Mistassini River near Lac St-Jean, to Baie des Haha. Nearly a third of residents in the region lost all their possessions.

1911: A fire in remote regions of northern Ontario burned through 200,000 hectares and virtually destroyed the towns of Cochrane, Porquis, Goldlands, South Porcupine and parts of Timmins. The official death toll stands at 73.

1916: The worst fire on record in Ontario’s history, dubbed the Matheson fire, swept over 500,000 hectares of land and destroyed 49 townships, including the villages of Kelso, Val Gane, Proquis Junction and Iroquois Falls. The blaze killed 244 people.

1919: A blaze known as “the great fire” burned through 2.8 million hectares of land in Saskatchewan and eastern Alberta, leaving 300 people homeless.

1922: A blaze between New Liskard and North Cobalt, Ont., destroyed 500,000 hectares of land and caused about $8 million in damages.

1948: A fire destroyed 280,000 hectares of land over a two-month period between Chapleau, Ont. and Thessalon, Ont.

1989: Drought conditions in Manitoba caused more than 1,200 fires to spring up throughout the province, burning through 2.5 million hectares and destroying about 100 homes. About 25,000 people in 32 communities were evacuated.

1998: A blaze in Salmon Arm, B.C., forced the evacuation of nearly 7,000 people and destroyed 40 buildings.

2001: A fire in Chisholm, Alta., about 150 kilometres north of Edmonton, destroyed more than 60 buildings and charred 116,000 hectares of land.

2003: More than 2,500 blazes swept through 2,650 square kilometres of land in British Columbia, destroying 334 homes and killing three firefighters. Environment Canada called it the most expensive natural disaster in provincial history, saying the cost of combating the blaze approached $500 million. The hamlet of Louis Creek, near Kamloops, was burned to the ground in early August. Two weeks later, a blaze in Okanagan Mountain Park near Kelowna quickly sent flames toward the city. About 250 homes were destroyed, effectively decimating a subdivision, and nearly 45,000 people were forced to flee the area.

Published by, 16 May 2011

Other Media Reports of fires in Alberta:

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