Canada city devastated by 2016 wildfire faces evacuations as new blaze nears

Last Updated: June 17, 2024By

Facing the Flames: Urgent Evacuation in Fort McMurray


A wildfire creeping towards the Canadian city of Fort McMurray has prompted authorities to order residents in four suburbs to pack up and get out, resurrecting chilling memories of past disasters.

In the western province of Alberta, folks in Beacon Hill, Abasand, Prairie Creek, and Grayling Terrace got the urgent memo on Tuesday: clear out by 4 pm MT, pronto.

“Hey, folks, wildfire’s closing in, so we’re hitting the road,” the notice essentially said. And they weren’t kidding. The advice? Grab your pets, meds, important papers, and emergency stash. Don’t dilly-dally.

For days now, officials have kept a close eye on a blaze making its way from the southwest, chewing up a whopping 9,600 hectares. Blame it on the bone-dry conditions and those pesky winds. Now, it’s knocking on Fort McMurray’s door, lurking a mere 13km away.

“Our top concern? Keeping folks safe and their stuff intact,” declared Jody Butz, the fire chief in charge, adding, “This fire dance is a whole new routine.”


“It’s like a different beast this time,” Butz explained, “burning through the leftovers from before, plus some crispy grass.”

Social media snapshots captured the exodus, cars snaking out of town against a backdrop of ominous smoke clouds turning the sky a grimy shade of orange.

For the locals, it’s déjà vu from the 2016 inferno that ravaged the oil sands hub.

“Butz had some words for the anxious bunch: “We get it—been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Hang tight.”

Back then, nearly 90,000 folks hit the road, inching along in a traffic nightmare, while ash rained down like hellfire and flames licked at the highway’s edge.


View image in fullscreen Fire crews are also monitoring a blaze on the edge of Fort Nelson, in British Columbia. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Dubbed “The Beast,” that fire wiped out chunks of the city, leaving behind a $9-billion mess.

“This fire’s on steroids. Smoke’s billowing, skies are smudged with soot. Safety first, so we’re yanking our crew off the front lines,” explained Josee St-Onge from Alberta Wildfire.

And the wind? It’s playing wingman, nudging the flames closer to town.

“We know y’all are stressed. Hang in there—we’re on it,” assured St-Onge.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s got more than 50 fires on its hands, two of ’em running wild: the Fort McMurray-bound one and another eyeballing Grande Prairie.

View image in fullscreen The fire in Fort Nelson, in British Columbia, which authorities fear could be fanned by strong winds. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Elsewhere out west, it’s not much better: a fire on Fort Nelson’s doorstep in British Columbia has everyone on edge, fearing the worst.

And in Manitoba, near Flin Flon, a blaze went from a measly 35 hectares to a whopping 3,000 in just a day.

“Forty years in this gig, and I’ve never seen a fire throw a tantrum like this,” exclaimed Earl Simmons, top dog at Manitoba’s wildfire service.

Amidst all this chaos, one thing’s clear: nature’s not holding back, and neither are the folks fighting to keep it at bay. Stay safe, everyone.

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