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State of Emergency Declared in Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada as 88,000 Residents Evacuate City Due to Wildfire

The out of control fire in Alberta, Canada has now grown to 328 square miles, bigger than New York City. The fire has forced the evacuation of 88,000 people in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas. More than 1000 firefighters are battling the blaze as it threatens oil production and local airport. The Prime Minister promised to match all donations to the Red Cross relief effort.

By 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the entire city was under a mandatory evacuation order in the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history, quickly surpassing the Slave Lake fire that made international headlines five years ago. The Slave Lake fire ended up being the costliest wildfire in the state’s history.

The worst of the fire is not over at this point. Wednesday’s weather will bring another round of very strong winds, low relative humidity and abnormally high temperatures for this time of year.

It was reported earlier that the federal department may offer airlift and other transportation support for firefighting, as well as logistical help.

There are firefighters, aircraft and heavy equipment working on the wildfire and more resources are on their way however high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds continue to fuel the fire. The image shows the area almost completely obliterated by the clouds of smoke rising from the fire. The smoke released by any type of fire (forest, brush, crop, structure, tires, waste or wood burning) is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot). Smoke can contain many different chemicals, including aldehydes, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, toluene, styrene, metals and dioxins.

The type and amount of particles and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what is burning, how much oxygen is available, and the burn temperature. Exposure to high levels of smoke should be avoided. Individuals are advised to limit their physical exertion if exposure to high levels of smoke cannot be avoided. Individuals with cardiovascular or respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma), fetuses, infants, young children, and the elderly may be more vulnerable to the health effects of smoke exposure.

(Headline image: natural-color satellite image was collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite on May 03, 2016. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. )

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