The gigantic wildfire that has forced the evacuation of the entire city of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta has been nicknamed “the Beast“, and mainstream news reports are telling us that it is now approximately 25 percent larger than New York City. 88,000 people have already been forced out of their homes, at least 1,600 buildings have been destroyed, and smoke from the fire has been spotted as far away as Iowa. To say that this is a “disaster” is a massive understatement. Northern Alberta is “tinder dry” right now, and authorities say that high winds could result in the size of the fire doubling by the end of the weekend. One-fourth of Canada’s oil output has already been shut down, and the edge of the fire is now getting very close to the neighboring province of Saskatchewan. This is already the most expensive natural disaster in the history of Canada, and officials fully expect to be fighting this blaze for months to come. Continue reading »
Since we first reported on the massive fire (and the fallout) that was burning in Canada’s oil sands gateway, Fort McMurray, things have gone from bad to worse. Today we learn that the fire that has already devastated 600 square miles, growing an additional 50% in less than 24 hours, is out of control, and could double in size by the end of the day.
As of late Saturday night, the fire had grown to 156,000 hectares and was heading toward the Saskatchewan border. Officials said winds up to 40 kilometres an hour will blow Saturday and warm temperatures mean it could add another 100,000 hectares to the fire by the end of the day. “We need heavy rain,” said Chad Morrison, senior wildfire manager, giving an update with Notley at noon Saturday according to the EdJournal. Continue reading »
The fire burning in the middle of Canada’s oil sands, which as reported earlier has led to the evacuation of over 80,000 local residents, has resulted in is set to trim oil output by about 500kbp for about 10 days, has been described as “apocalyptic.” The following dash cam videos which have captured the reality for some 80,000 local residents demonstrate why.
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Now that Canada has had a chance to evaluate the damage from the historic Alberta fire, the question on everyone’s lips is what will be the near-term impact on oil production. The most comprehensive answer provided so far comes from Morgan Stanley’s Benny Wong who estimates that the total number of offline capacity will be anywhere between 400 and 500 mbbl/d, with the shut-in expected to last about 10 days, potentially reducing total market output by as much as 5 million barrels.
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– California’s Wildfires Are Now The Same Size As Six Manhattans (Vocativ, Aug 4, 2015):
Wildfires have destroyed or damaged 137,000 acres of Californian land this year, about the same size as six Manhattans, 4.5 San Franciscos, three Washington D.C.s or 1.5 Philadelphias. That’s nearly three times California’s five-year average of 48,153 acres to August 1, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
– Australia bushfires: New South Wales declares state of emergency (BBC News, Oct 20, 2013):
The fires have already destroyed at least 200 homes, as Jon Donnison reports
A state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales as Australian firefighters battle bushfires that have already destroyed more than 200 homes.
The announcement comes as conditions look set to deteriorate with soaring temperatures and strong winds expected to fan the flames in the coming days.
The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, has been the worst-hit region with some fires still raging out of control.
State officials say they are the most dangerous conditions in 40 years.
– Southern California fire burns 1,000 acres; thousands flee (CNN, May 28, 2103):
Crews in Southern California struggled to get the upper hand on a fast-moving wildfire in Santa Barbara County early Tuesday.
Known as the White Fire, the blaze had already charred some 1,000 acres after getting its start Monday afternoon, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen said. The flames were 5% contained.
This undated handout picture provided by New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW Rural Fire Service) on January 8, 2013 shows a NSW Rural Fire Service worker spraying water on a bush fire at Green Point in New South Wales. (AFP Photo/ NSW Rural Fire Service)
– ‘Catastrophic’: Hundreds of wildfires rage in Australia amid record heat wave (VIDEO, PHOTOS) (RT, Jan 8, 2013):
A heat wave that has already caused devastating fires on the Island state of Tasmania, with 100 people still missing, has now moved to mainland Australia and is reaping havoc in New South Wales, as the heat wave looks to smash records.
In some areas temperatures have shot up by as much as 20C in three hours and combined with 50 mph winds have created disastrous fire conditions.
Right across Australia records have been broken by the heat wave and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has been forced to add colors to its forecast charts to take account of temperatures of 50-54 degrees Celsius.
Australia’s all-time record of 50.7 degrees; set in January 1960 at Oodnadatta in South Australia is likely to be smashed over the coming days. On Tuesday, in some places temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius were recorded.
“The scale has just been increased today and I would anticipate it is because the forecast coming from the bureau’s model is showing temperatures in excess of 50 degrees,” David Jones , the BoM’s head of climate monitoring, told Fairfax newspapers.
Continue reading »
– Fast-moving fire takes properties in central Victoria as NSW battles 135 blazes (AAP, Jan 8, 2013):
DOZENS of homes remained under threat late today as NSW firefighters battled 135 blazes in 40-plus temperatures and often “catastrophic” conditions, and a fast-moving fire in central Victoria has destroyed at least two properties.
Fuelled by soaring temperatures and powerful winds, the worst fires were in the south of NSW near Cooma, Nowra, Bega and Wagga Wagga.
– Wildfires Hit Australia Amid Worst Heatwave in Decade (Bloomberg, Jan 4, 2012):
Wildfires are sweeping through parts of rural Australia as the biggest heatwave since 2001 spreads across the nation bringing near-record temperatures.
State-wide fire bans are in force in the southern island state of Tasmania and in Victoria, while emergency services issued bushfire alerts across South Australia. The Bureau of Meteorology said the heatwave was moving east across the continent, bringing temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
– New fire forces evacuations in Northern Calif. (AP, Aug 19, 2012):
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Thousands of people have been told to leave their homes as a wildfire burning Sunday in thick forest threatened rural communities in far Northern California.
The fire that sparked around 11:30 a.m. Saturday has destroyed four homes and consumed nearly 11 square miles near the towns of Manton, Shingleton, and Viola, fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. About 3,500 homes spread out across a rural area along the border of Tehama and Shasta counties are threatened, he said.
– Dead Crops, Extreme Drought And Endless Wildfires Are Now The New Normal In America (Economic Collapse, Aug 5, 2012):
As you read this, the United States is experiencing the worst drought it has seen since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. As you read this, nearly half of all corn crops in the United States are in “poor” or “very poor” condition. As you read this, 38 major wildfires are ripping across the central and western United States. The brutal wildfires in Oklahoma have been so bad that they have made national headlines. The price of corn has hit a brand new record high this summer and so has the price of soybeans. More than half of all the counties in this country have been declared to be “natural disaster areas” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at this point. Things are so bad for ranchers that the CEO of Smithfield Foods is projecting that meat prices will rise by “significant double digits” in the months ahead. Sadly, this drought is projected to continue throughout August and into September. As you will read about below, some meteorologists are even openly postulating that there may not be enough moisture to avoid another drought next year. Yes, things are really bad this year, but when you step back and take a look at the broader picture they become truly frightening.According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of July 31st close to two-thirds of the continental United States was experiencing at least some level of drought….
Keep in mind that brown is “severe drought”, red is “extreme drought” and dark brown in “exceptional drought”.
This is truly a historic drought. We have never seen anything like this in modern times in the United States.
The week before, this is how the U.S. Drought Monitor described conditions in the center of the country….
“Over 90 percent of the topsoil was short or very short of moisture in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, with virtually all (99 percent) short or very short in Missouri and Illinois”
There had been some hope that rain would bring relief to farmers in the central part of the country, but instead things just keep getting worse and worse. Continue reading »
An image from the most recent issue of Inspire magazine, which is reportedly produced by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Several articles in the magazine advocate the use of wildfires as a terrorist tactic.
– Homeland Security Warns of Terrorist Wildfire Attacks (Public Intelligence, June 2, 2012):
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security and fusion centers around the country are warning that terrorists are interested in using fire as a weapon, particularly in the form of large-scale wildfires near densely populated areas. A newly released DHS report states that for more than a decade “international terrorist groups and associated individuals have expressed interest in using fire as a tactic against the Homeland to cause economic loss, fear, resource depletion, and humanitarian hardship.” The report notes that the tactical use of fire as a weapon is “inexpensive and requires limited technical expertise” and “materials needed to use fire as a weapon are common and easily obtainable, making preoperational activities difficult to detect and plot disruption and apprehension challenging for law enforcement.”
– This Has Been The Worst Year For Natural Disasters In U.S. History (Economic Collapse, Sep. 9, 2011):
There has been a natural disaster that has caused at least a billion dollars of damage inside the United States every single month so far this year. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there have been 10 major disasters in the United States this year. On average, usually there are only about 3 major disasters a year. At this point, disasters are happening inside the United States so frequently that there seems to be no gap between them. We just seem to go from one major disaster to the next. Last year, FEMA declared an all-time record of 81 disasters inside the United States. This year, we are on pace for well over 100. We just got done dealing with Hurricane Irene, and now we are dealing with historic wildfires in Texas and unprecedented flooding up in the northeast part of the country. This has been the worst year for natural disasters in U.S. history, and we still have nearly four months left to go. Hopefully after everything that has happened this year it has become abundantly clear to all of us why we need to prepare for emergencies. The world is becoming an increasingly unstable place, and you never know what is going to happen next.
– More wildfires erupt in Texas as it faces worst dry spell since 1895 (CNN, September 11, 2011):
In a dry spell unseen since 1895, Texas added 24 new wildfires burning 1,154 acres to a disaster that has so far torched more than 1,000 homes, the state’s Forest Service said Saturday.
In all, Texas has experienced 179 fires over 170,686 acres the past week, the service said. The past 10 months have been the driest in Texas since 1895, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said.
– Wildfire burns near spent nuclear fuel in Idaho (Reuters, August 25, 2011):
In addition to conducting nuclear energy research and development, the lab accepts spent radioactive fuel rods from power plants and other sources across the nation.
– Idaho fire prompts evacuation of nuclear facility (Reuters, Aug 26, 2011):
Firefighters struggled on Thursday to control a fast-growing 28,000-acre wildfire raging within several miles of spent nuclear fuel stored at a U.S. Energy Department lab in the high desert of eastern Idaho.
The growth and intensity of the blaze, the nation’s largest active wildfire, prompted the Idaho National Laboratory to order a key facility on the 890-square-mile site evacuated of all nonessential personnel, lab officials said.
– Firefighters head off to help Los Alamos (Daily Times, July 16, 2011):
FARMINGTON — Despite the prospect of rough conditions, sleeping in tents and surviving on camp rations, a crew of unfazed Farmington firefighters left for Los Alamos on Friday.
The federal government issued a call for help from fire departments and wild land firefighting organizations all across the nation since the Las Conchas fire started last month.
“We were getting resource requests daily during the Fourth of July,” said Farmington Fire Department Battalion Chief Nick Mrzlak. “They were in a real bind looking for manpower.”
This is Farmington’s second deployment. Each time, all the city could afford to send was a single engine crew.
“The city’s needs come first,” Mrzlak said. “July 4 is one of our busiest times of the year. It’s all about what the city can spare.”
An engine crew consists of a “Brush Engine,” which is a four-wheel drive super-duty Ford 550 with a pump and 300-gallon tank, three men and a whole heap of hoses and gear.
What an onlooker doesn’t see is the level of training that is riding alongside.
“We all have our wild land certification,” said team leader Duane Bair. “That’s the main reason they’re calling us.”
That and the fact that Bair, Robert Sterrett and Zac Brock are not only certified in fighting wild fire, they also have extensive training in hazardous material and rescue operations.
Despite the major difference between the Los Alamos fire and other wild land fires, this crew wasn’t the least bit nervous. In fact, they were excited as they loaded the truck Friday afternoon.
The difference can be summed up in a single word, “radiation,” a word that not only resonates with the recent catastrophe in Japan, it also draws up memories of some of the worst events in modern history.
“We spend all this time training so when we finally get to use it it’s a relief,” Sterrett said. “It’s definitely going to be a change of pace.”
– Los Alamos Takes Supercomputers Offline (Data Center Knowledge, June 30, 2011):
The wildfire threatening Los Alamos, New Mexico has gained national attention, largely due to concerns about the safety of nuclear waste at Los Alamos National Labs, which played a key role in the Manhattan Project and nuclear weapons development and testing. As we noted Monday, the Department of Energy facility also houses two of the world’s leading supercomputers, the Cielo and Roadrunner systems. Those systems have been taken offline, Computerworld reports.“
A Los Alamos spokeswoman said the laboratory conducted an ‘orderly shutdown’ of two of its largest supercomputers,” writes Patrick Thibodeau at ComputerWorld. “IBM’s Roadrunner, the first the break the petaflop barrier in 2008, and now the 10th ranked most powerful supercomputer in the world, and Cielo, a Craig system that is ranked No. 6 on the Top500 list. The supercomputer shutdowns were conducted ‘early on,’ but an exact day or reason for the action wasn’t clear.”
On this fourth day of the devastating Las Conchas fire which is threatening Los Alamos, New Mexico, the night sky finally cleared enough to see the flames licking all around the labs and the city.
This time-lapse video is comprised of 113 photographs taken 30 seconds apart. Each photograph is shown for one second. My vantage point is from my home on a ridge just to the north of Santa Fe.
You can see quick changes in the fires, stars in the sky, and emergency vehicles making their way on fire duties. The brightest lights are the headquarters of the Los Alamos labs and other technical areas are to the left. To the right is the Los Alamos town site. Below the headquarters is the suburb of White Rock.
– Fukushima Spews, Los Alamos Burns, Vermont Rages & We Almost Lost Nebraska (Hawaii Daily News, June, 29, 2011):
Humankind is now threatened by the simultaneous implosion, explosion, incineration, courtroom contempt and drowning of its most lethal industry.
We know only two things for certain: worse is yet to come, and those in charge are lying about it—at least to the extent of what they actually know, which is nowhere near enough.
Indeed, the assurances from the nuke power industry continue to flow like the floodwaters now swamping the Missouri Valley heartland.
But major breakthroughs have come from a Pennsylvania Senator and New York’s Governor on issues of evacuation and shut-down. And a public campaign for an end to loan guarantees could put an end to the US industry once and for all.
FUKUSHIMA: The bad news continues to bleed from Japan with no end in sight. The “light at the end of the tunnel” is an out-of-control radioactive freight train, headed to the core of an endangered planet.
Widespread internal radioactive contamination among Japanese citizens around Fukushima has now been confirmed.
Two whales caught some 650 kilometers from the melting reactors have shown intense radiation.
Plutonium, the deadliest substance known to our species, has been found dangerously far from the site.
– UPDATED: Los Alamos Residents Can’t Come Home Saturday (ABQ Journal, June 30, 2011):
11:15 a.m. 6/30/11 –Fire crews in Los Alamos reported that the northern finger of the Las Conchas blaze is extending northward toward the Santa Clara Pueblo, according to a news release from the county.
9:15 a.m. 6/30/11 — LOS ALAMOS (AP) — The Las Conchas Fire, threatening the nation’s premier nuclear weapons laboratory and a community in northern New Mexico, is poised to become the largest fire in state history.
7:40am 6/30/11 (AP) — Fire Crews Busy Thinning Woods Around LANL
This morning in Los Alamos was the eeriest morning yet as smoke settled into the streets and on people’s lawns in the nearly abandoned city, the Albuquerque Journal’s Phil Parker writes from the scene today.
The Las Conchas Fire, which has been burning near Los Alamos since Sunday, has burned nearly 100,000 acres, which would make it the largest wildfire in New Mexico history. There is still only 3 percent containment reported.
5:30am 6/30/11 (AP) — Las Conchas Fire at Nearly 90,000 Acres
The Las Conchas Fire grew to roughly 90,000 acres on Wednesday, advancing northward to the headwaters of Santa Clara Canyon on Santa Clara Pueblo while firefighters improved buffer zones around Los Alamos and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Albuquerque Journal’s Phil Parker reported this morning.
The fire was still being reported late Wednesday as being 3 percent contained, but exactly where some small part of the fire had been reined in was unclear, the Journal said.
More than 1,000 fire personnel have been requested, the paper reported.
– Q&A: Is New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory Really Safe? (TIME, June 29, 2011):
Los Alamos, N.M. is feeling the heat this week as it battles the Las Conchas wildfire that has been raging since Sunday.
Caused by a fallen power line, the blaze — which spans more than 108 miles — has destroyed about 61,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest and forced the evacuation of the town of Los Alamos (population 11,000). Worse, the fire is creeping dangerously close to the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), one of the country’s biggest nuclear research facilities. At risk are 20-30,000 drums of Cold War-era plutonium-contaminated waste that are sitting above ground in fabric tents in Technical Area 54 within the Area G section.
– ‘Hoping for the best’: Firefighters battle blaze at edge of Los Alamos nuclear complex (MSNBC, June 28, 2011):
Flames licked at the boundary of the laboratory site, home to the nation’s largest supply of nuclear weapons.
The laboratory was shut down, and the town of Los Alamos, home to about 12,000 people, was placed under a mandatory evacuation Monday afternoon.
However, the facility called in special teams to track readings from a network of 60 monitoring stations that measure levels of substances such as plutonium and uranium in the air “as a precaution,” said lab director Charles McMillan.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, who was visiting evacuees at the Santa Claran Hotel Casino in Espanola, said “there’s no doubt” the lab stores a variety of hazardous and radioactive materials that “you don’t want to escape in the atmosphere.” But he said he was confident lab and state environmental officials had monitoring systems in place to “evaluate exactly what we’re seeing here.”
Fires have burned as close as one mile from the government lab – threatening buildings, power lines and gas lines, officials said.
– Los Alamos lab still under threat from blaze (CBS NEWS, June 28, 2011):
The anti-nuclear watchdog group Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety said the fire appeared to be about 3.5 miles from a dumpsite where as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste were stored in fabric tents above ground. The group said the drums were awaiting transport to a dump site in southern New Mexico.
Lab officials at first declined to confirm that such drums were on the property, but in a statement early Tuesday, lab spokeswoman Lisa Rosendorf said such drums are stored in a section of the complex known as Area G. She said the drums contain cleanup from Cold War-era waste that the lab sends away in weekly shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
– Los Alamos Evacuated; Fire Crews Concentrate on Nuclear Lab (Israel National News, June 28, 2011):
Los Alamos National Laboratory is indelibly etched in historical memory as the hatching site of the Manhattan Project, the effort which created the first atomic bomb. The world’s largest nuclear weapons arsenal is still located there. Now a raging wildfire has forced the evacuation of the surrounding town of Los Alamos (population 12,000)..
Given the recent Japanese disaster at Fukushima, the fear of course is that a natural disaster can morph into a nuclear one. Firefighters are therefore concentrating on keeping the blaze out of the laboratory. “If it spots on the lab, we’ll get really aggressive about putting it out,” Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker said.
Lab officials at first declined to confirm that such drums were on the property, but in a statement early Tuesday, lab spokeswoman Lisa Rosendorf said such drums are stored in a section of the complex known as Area G.
Probably just a coincidence!!!
– Los Alamos evacuated as wildfire nears (UPI, June 28, 2011):
The anti-nuclear watchdog group’s Web site appeared hacked early Tuesday morning, a United Press International check indicated. Its Facebook page had six messages from people alerting the group of the possible hacking, including a message commenting on the timing of the incident happening “just as the fires started.”
– New Mexico wildfires force evacuation at Los Alamos nuclear labratory (NY Daily News, June 27, 2011):
Raging wildfires in New Mexico forced the evacuation of the famed nuclear lab at Los Alamos Monday, though officials insist that radioactive material is secure.
Fires have burned as close as one mile from the government lab – threatening buildings, power lines and gas lines, officials said.
“Lab emergency crews have been dispatched across the lab to protect key facilities and materials,” said lab spokesman Jeff Berger.
“Protected areas include all hazardous and radioactive facilities and our proton accelerator and super-computing centers.”
About 100 non-essential personnel were cleared from the area around the lab, where the first atomic bomb was built.
– Russia Wildfires in Russia more rampant in 2011, spread over east (RIA Novosti, June 7, 2011):
Russia reported 234 wildfires burning in forests and peat bogs on Tuesday, covering an area three times the size of that for the same period last year.
The fires, up 30 from Monday, are raging across a vast area of 618,000 hectares in remote parts of Siberia and the Urals, according to Rosleskhoz, the Federal Forest Service.
BAGHDAD (AP) — The U.S. military says 5 American troops have been killed in central Iraq. A military statement says the 5 were killed today, but doesn’t say how they died. The number of U.S. service members killed in Iraq is now 4,459.
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — Intelligence officials in Pakistan say U.S. missiles fired in South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, have killed 16 people. The identities of the dead aren’t known, but the targets were suspected militants.
GREER, Ariz. (AP) — More than 2,000 firefighters are battling a huge wildfire in eastern Arizona. The blaze already is 184,000 acres and is likely to get bigger with winds and dry lightning. Firefighters have been able to keep a wildfire in southeastern Arizona from occupied homes. That 100,000-acre fire seems to be holding steady.