All eyes are on Fort McMurray as hundreds of firefighters continue to fight a blaze larger than the city of Calgary.
The blaze has ripped through neighbourhoods around the city, forcing more than 80,000 people to evacuate from the community.
Dean of Forestry at the University of British Columbia John Innes says very dry forest conditions and a lack of rainfall so far this spring led to the blaze quickly growing since Tuesday.
Innes believes everyone in the community was taken aback by the “ferocity” of the fire. He says shifting winds on Tuesday really changed the behaviour of the fire as it entered the city, catching firefighters by surprise.
The blaze has now consumed 85,000 hectares, and has grown so large that it is creating its own weather system, with lightning reported in the midst of the inferno. Innes says firefighters are doing all they can, but the fire has reached a point where it is “almost impossible to control by human means”, and a heavy rainfall is needed to weaken the fire.
However, the forecast doesn’t look promising. There are no heavy rainfalls forecasted for the area for at least the next week, with only a 30% chance of rain on Sunday and Monday.
Innes says Western Canada is facing some severe fire concerns, with a number of wildfires burning already in BC and extreme fire hazards in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, but Innes points to speculation that the fire started because of humans.
He says people need to be extremely careful of what they do with campfires, cigarette butts, and other items that could spark a fire. Nearly half of the wildfires in a season are caused by humans and are completely preventable.