A ruthless wildfire that broke out in Canada at the start of this month is still raging as firefighters work to rein in its devastation. But just how big are the infernos?
The fire first broke out in a remote area and tore through Fort McMurray, an oil town of about 90,000 people in Alberta, a province in western Canada. Of the 18 wildfires currently burning in Alberta, only Fort McMurray’s remains out of control, according to the most recent updates issued by Alberta’s government.
More than 620,000 hectares have been burned so far, or about 1.5 million acres. To put that into perspective, the fires are so huge, they created their own lightning.
Tens of thousands of residents have left the area after officials declared a state of emergency and issued mandatory orders to leave in the largest evacuation in the province’s history. The cause is still being investigated.
The blaze has reportedly breached Saskatchewan’s border as conditions remain extreme despite dropping temperatures and higher humidity. The air in and around Alberta is so polluted, it’s still too dangerous for evacuees to come back. Some industry sites have lifted their evacuation orders, but Fort McMurray is still largely empty, according to a Reuters report.
Currently, 1,880 firefighters, 104 helicopters and hundreds more pieces of heavy equipment are fighting the fires. Here are some images of the smoke columns as seen from NASA’s satellites. (The red dots are actively burning areas.)