Wild Suburbs, Wild Energy, Wildfire
With the arrival of industrial-scale mining, the Canadian settlement of Fort McMurray grew from 1,100 in 1970 to over 80,000. Situated in the heart of Alberta’s Tar Sands the urban service area is alive with activity focused around the world’s largest mine, by area, potentially covering 149,000 square kilometres, equivalent in size to Greece.
In 2015, government-run Environment Canada issued data showing that seven refineries within a 30-kilometre radius released a total of 34 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere that year. Production in 2016 distributed 2.4 million barrels of oil daily via 30-inch pipelines. These channels are now being upgraded and include the planned Keystone XL pipeline. The scale of engineering and mining has altered the landscape beyond comprehension and made Canada third in global oil supply.
During spring of 2016, Fort McMurray’s residents were forced to evacuate, without warning, as the hellfire approached the city limits. This story looks at the aftermath of a town located deep in the boreal forest caught by an inferno within the new conditions of the warming.