Wildfire ravages Canadian town

Thursday 19th May 2011 by theWeather Club

Wildfires fuelled by high winds and dry conditions have blazed through more than 30% of Slave Lake, a town in Canada's Alberta province, forcing thousands of residents to abandon their belongings and flee. Emergency officials went from house to house on Tuesday to ensure all the town's 7,000 residents had evacuated. Alberta Municipal Affairs said the town's residents were ordered to evacuate on Sunday and that 95% of the town was empty by Monday, with only essential or fire fighting staff remaining. Town mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee said hundreds of fire fighters converged on the town to help battle the blazes.

Alberta cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk said it was the largest single-day displacement of people in the province's history, while Ms. Pillay-Kinnee, called the destruction in the town truly devastating, adding that it would take the town some time to recover. “It's heart-wrenching as people lose their homes, their livelihood. For myself, I'm just trying to remain focused on the task at hand.” She said.

Wildfires hit the town late on Sunday evening, reducing many homes and businesses to collapsed timber. The government centre and library were destroyed by the blazes, while the police station and hospital remained unaffected. By Monday evening, a blaze east of Slave Lake had consumed about 20 sq km, and a fire south of the town had burned 150 sq km.

The Canadian federal government has deployed 1,000 fire fighters, 100 helicopters and 20 water bombers to battle wildfires throughout the entire province. Despite all this effort more than 40% of the more than 100 wildfires burning in the Canadian province are designated as out of control. The extent of the fires has even forced oil companies in Alberta, Canada's largest energy producing province, to shut off thousands of barrels of output therefore threatening to affect the nation's oil revenues.