Fort McMurray’s fire chief is in awe of “the beast” that devastated complete neighbourhoods in the city. Firefighters were able to save about 90% of the structure but 2,400 buildings were lost to the flames last week. Regional Fire Chief Darby Allen says he’s never seen another fire like it. “This was a significant fire. It’s an unprecedented fire with respect to the rate it spread, how it involved the community. I truly believe nothing else could have been done that wasn’t done to protect the people and the structures within out city.”
Allen says the fire will have the experts rethinking fire behaviour in the future. “I spoke to may colleagues from Forestry and many of the fire conditions and the way the fire behaved no-one’s ever seen anything like this. Darren who’s been running operations said this is rewriting the book. The way this thing happened, the way it travelled, the way it behaved, so they’re rewriting their formulas on how fires behave based on this fire.”
Allen rejected the hero moniker for himself instead praising others he said did incredible work. “Firefighters, paramedics, water treatment plant operators, police officers, support clerks, forestry guys, the list goes on and on. Members of the public who drove safely out of town, absolutely wonderful.”
Chief Allen says the city is still not safe for evacuees to return because large areas have no power, no water and no gas. But there are already signs the reconstruction is underway. Teams were working on power lines into the city during Monday’s tour and Allen says everything is being done to get people home as soon as possible.
The fire is still being called dangers and is out of control east of Fort McMurray. It covers 204,000 hectares and Tuesday morning it was approaching the Saskatchewan boundary.