Monthly Archives: May 2016

Fort McMurray Wildfire: Not a Campfire

©2016 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee  

(*photos unavailable at this time due to technical difficulties)

 

We like Camping Better

Think back...have you ever sat beside a lake at a camp site,  toasting marshmallows, watching a natural, crackling fire consume firewood, glowing red-hot, yellow flames,  wisps of smoke and  sparks magically drifting off into the night sky?  Maybe it's not a campfire; many  modern camping enthusiasts  content ourselves with a camp stove, usually not a campfire, the open type, at least —or  we carefully use  the same safe, good old-fashioned fire pit. Enjoying the company of good friends and making fond memories out camping may be accessorized with a favourite book or fishing rod, or both, and  R&R is completed with sunshine,  snoozing, canoe, kids,  water-play, tent, food and fun. Fire danger presently in the mind or not, we like camping better than  life back at the suburbs, and that's how the great outdoors should be, but...

But let us try again...have you ever  wind gust and shift almost instantaneously at your campsite,  blowing hot, suffocating, ash, smoke and sparks from your fire into your face, making those  comfy seats around the campfire a hazard,  not a place to sit and dream?  Perhaps too much fuel is indiscriminately added;  the fire becomes too big,   flames reach to the sky, threatening  nearby trees.  It has become dangerous; it is not a simple campfire any longer as wind fans flames.  Heat, acrid smoke,  dangerous sparks fly,  flames spread into nearby tinder-dry grass or the forest itself. There is a  sudden realization of fear...good times are forgotten and panic ensues. With unpredictable winds in some conditions  it is even possible to become surrounded by a deadly  wildfire.

The Fort McMurray Wildfire

To date it is unknown if the current fire event at Fort McMurray, Alberta, was started by lightning or accidentally,  by human activity.  Here at IncomingBytes we  respect, treasure and enjoy the great outdoors, and certainly hope the cause was not a campfire neglected by individuals who were enjoying the finest Mother Nature has to offer. It is too early to speculate.

We can only offer for certain that, like all forest fires, the Fort Mac monster started out small, accidentally or otherwise.  Fires have been caused by lightning, a vehicle,  a single spark, the careless tossing of a cigarette butt, or  in the worst case scenario, vandalism.  Not arson, please;  there could never be adequate punishment meted out for a crime of that magnitude.   And hopefully, it was not an innocent campfire run amok;  we repeat, please, —not an innocent campfire.  That would imply that someone's love for the wonderful outdoors burned  and scarred Mother Nature;  carelessness... neglect,  and unfettered guilt...You get the idea.

The Perfect Firestorm

Regardless of how the 'Fort Mac ' fire started, it grew unbelievably fast and totally out of control.  Within a very short period of time, the fire became an insatiable monster of the highest magnitude. Why?  Fire officials suggest this event was differenta perfect storm, with kindling-dry forests,  an endless and huge supply of fuel, bone-dry wood,  logs, dead trees, green conifers, extremely  low humidity, hot temperatures,  no rain, —all coupled with  gusting, driving winds capable of switching direction  unpredictably within moments.  Perfect conditions existed province-wide for the incredibly fast expansion of even the tiniest  fire.  Heat, dry fuel, oxygen... all are necessary for fire, and contributed greatly to this unbelievable, perfect firestorm.  All it took was one spark,  a campfire, a cigarette butt,  perhaps a discarded glass bottle and sunlight, or a lightning strike.  With the fire still in progress, officials can only guess at the cause as Canadians have switched into survival and firefighting mode.

The Fort Mac fire took off, becoming large enough to create its own weather system and be seen from space;  it soon consumed thousands of buildings, homes, commercial buildings, infrastructure, destroying  vehicles, personal property and livelihoods indiscriminately in an incredibly savage attack. More than 80,000 people were forced to evacuate to safer areas initially both north and south.  Unbelievably, some people  were even forced to evacuate more than once, to flee  endangered oil facilities and evacuation centers.

 

Not a Campfire?

This fire remains a vicious, unpredictable predator many days later, after destroying large neighbourhoods of Fort McMurray, and unbelievably, far more than 200,000 hectares, hundreds of square kilometers of forest —a monster wildfire which ultimately may only be controlled eventually by cooler conditions,  rainfall, and Mother Nature herself.

This is an ongoing story;  a  horrific forest fire event unparalleled  in Canadian history. A wildfire to which all North Americans should be paying attention. We continue to hope it was not a camp fire.

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