A Massive Wildfire in Canada Just Forced an Entire City to Be Evacuated

“Everything I’ve ever known is burnt to the ground.”

Mary Anne Sexsmith-Segato/The Canadian Press/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

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:

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:

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend