Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fire Update

I had been planning the past couple days to post an update on the fire situation here but have been pretty busy with work so it hasn't been until now that I've been able to get around to it. I can start off by reassuring everyone that while there are 6 active fires (3 out of control) in the municipality at the moment, we are in no immediate danger. This map here will give you a good idea of where the fires are burning. The closest one(about 100 hectares in size)is a mere 17km up the highway and being held. I pass quite close by the area on my way to work and haven't seen anything all that alarming in terms of smoke or flame the past couple mornings. The biggest fire in the area (and I believe the province) referred to as the McClelland Lake fire sits about 80km as the crow flies north-north-east of Fort McMurray. Last I had heard (this morning) it had grown to something in the neighborhood of 148 000 hectares.

All this has meant that we've woken up the past few mornings to a blanket of heavy smoke, not so bad up here in Thickwood but pretty nasty downtown and up at site. I think Suncor base plant, where I work, has been the only place that wasn't evacuated, or on some sort of alert this past week, although at least some of Suncor's outlying work camps were evacuated with many being lodged in various downtown hotels. For the most part the smoke dissipates as the winds pick up over the course of the day and then settles back in again as winds calm down over night.

The nearby community of Fort McKay was under evacuation standby at one point and the communities elders were transported out but have since been allowed to return. As for us here, its really just the smoke that's a major nuisance. The past couple mornings have been really bad at work but as part of my job I do have access to a half-mask, which I made brief use of yesterday afternoon.

All this activity is quite new for someone who grew up in southern Ontario and spent 6 years in Nunavut, where of course there are no trees, but for the people I work with from Alberta and BC, this is all old hat to them and they've been quite reassuring. We did experience smoke last summer courtesy of fires burning in BC, but nothing quite of this magnitude.

For the time being, we just take precautions to monitor our breathing and listen for updates, all the while smelling faintly of "eau de campfire".


Kim said...

I'm in Gregoire, there is ash currently falling from the sky? Tuesday 24th, 7:30is.

Way Way Up said...

We had ash falling out at Suncor too....pretty surreal.