Fort McMurray Wildfire Forces Thousands to Evacuate

A raging wildfire in Alberta, Canada has forced 88,000 Fort McMurray residents to flee their homes, the largest such evacuation on record. The fire has already destroyed more than 1,600 structures, many of them homes. According to Reuters, the communities of Anzac and Gregoire Lake 35 miles south of Fort McMurray are under “extreme threat” as the fire continues to spread southeast.

Fort McMurray wildfire evacuation
Wildfire near Highway 63 in south Fort McMurray
Here is what we know:

  • 88,000 people have been evacuated.
  • 17,000 people remain to evacuate, and are hoping for a main roadway to be open for them to travel out of the danger zone.
  • No known cause of the fire has been identified.
  • Tinder and dry brush are helping to spread the fire.
  • The blaze covers 210,000 acres or 328.2 square miles.
  • Several of the individual blazes are considered “under control”, while others are still “out of control.”

As the nature of the Fort McMurray wildfire unfolds in the coming weeks, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy will work to educate and inform the private philanthropic community with options for how to effectively support the fire-affected community.
In 2013, we offered this general advice for how philanthropists can effectively support wildfire prevention and recovery. Here are a few basic tips from that list for donors wanting to support long-term prevention and recovery:

  • Support local agencies on the ground throughout the disaster life cycle, especially those that work with vulnerable populations. Those in already precarious situations—such as the elderly, sick, and poor—may find their circumstances worsened in the face of disaster. Mental health providers, food banks, and organizations working with children or the elderly, for example, must have plans in place to mitigate the disaster’s effects and reduce confusion and duplication of efforts.
  • Invest in public awareness and educational campaigns as well as dissemination of best practices in wildfire and drought mitigation. Simple efforts such as clearing flammable materials from 100 feet around the house may help prevent property damage, for example. Fires can also be started by misuse of equipment, which can be averted with proper knowledge.
  • Assist businesses in developing business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plans to reduce economic impact. These plans should include, for example, contingencies for displaced workers, back up of data, and alternate facilities for continuing operations in the event of property damage.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, New York Times, and the CBC News Liveblog.