Date: October 16, 2023
Complete Article: Charlie Angus (YouTube)
Testimonies to Parliament can be pretty dry… but not this one! In a passionate, inspiring, articulate and information-filled five minutes, author John Vaillant (of the book Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast) makes it clear why it’s appropriate to sue the oil and gas industry. Watch this video to learn how – and why – fires in the 21st Century are different – and much more dangerous – than those that came before.
When Fort McMurray caught fire in May 2016, I was as shocked as anyone. Winter was barely over, local lakes were still frozen, and yet the temperature in Northern Alberta hit 33 Celcius. More disturbing was the relative humidity: 11%. You know where 11% humidity is normal? Death Valley in July. When you transpose the climate of the hottest driest place in North America to the Canadian boreal forest – a famously flammable ecosystem – otherworldly things are going to happen. And they did.
On May 3rd, 2016, the radiant heat coming off the Fort McMurray fire, 10 km wide, with 100 meter flames, was 500 Celsius. That’s hotter than Venus. That was Fort McMurray on May 3rd, May 4th, and day after day after day after that. That was also this summer in BC, Alberta, Quebec and the Northwest Territories. Firefighters at Fort Mac described houses burning to the basement in 5 minutes. I thought they were exaggerating. They weren’t. I talked to physicists. That’s what fire can do at 500 Celsius. As a result, the firefighting operation became a life-saving operation because there was no time to do anything else.
What surprises everyone about 21st century fire is fast it moves. Talk to anyone in Slave Lake or Fort Mac or Kelowna or Enterprise Northwest Territories. There was a plume over there and now I’m running for my life. This is happening because the hotter and drier the air and the forest, the faster and more explosive the fire.