DISASTERS: FIRE : ENVIRONMENT GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE : COUNTRIES: CANADA : TOURISM AND TRAVEL: ANALYSIS: Fort McMurray's Horrifying Experience Shows Humans Can't Stand in Nature's Way

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DISASTERS: FIRE : ENVIRONMENT GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE : COUNTRIES: CANADA : TOURISM AND TRAVEL: ANALYSIS: Fort McMurray's Horrifying Experience Shows Humans Can't Stand in Nature's Way

David Dillard
Administrator



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DISASTERS: FIRE :

ENVIRONMENT GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE :

COUNTRIES: CANADA :

TOURISM AND TRAVEL: ANALYSIS:

Fort McMurray's Horrifying Experience Shows
Humans Can't Stand in Nature's Way

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Fort McMurray's Horrifying Experience Shows
Humans Can't Stand in Nature's Way

By Don Pittis

CBC News

Posted: May 04, 2016 3:39 PM ET

Last Updated: May 05, 2016 10:57 AM ET

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/fort-mcmurray-fire-experience-1.3565940

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Don Pittis was a forest fire fighter for nearly a decade, and studied
forestry at Lakehead University before switching to economics and
journalism.

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In nearly a decade of being paid to fight forest fires, I rarely
experienced the intensity of the fire that the people of Fort McMurray
witnessed this week. And while I have felt in terror for my life, I have
certainly never seen such economic destruction.

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It's not because such giant conflagrations are so rare. It's because
firefighters only get that close to the roaring, moving head of a large
forest fire when things have gone badly wrong. Canada has thousands of
fires every year, but the giant ones seldom come close to communities as
big as Fort McMurray.

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The leading edge of a crowning fire is always terrifying. The noise is
often compared to a passing freight train, but unlike a freight train, the
fire cannot be stopped.

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Understanding the power of a moving forest fire isn't hard once you think
of the process at work.

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Firestorm effect

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Just like a camp bonfire, the heat of the flames pushes the air into a
convection column. When there is little wind, the fire burns straight up,
not sideways, creeping slowly through the brush, occasionally flaring up
through the needles of a conifer with a bright yellow roar, something
called candling. In the absence of firefighters, the fire moves forward
gradually, finding new fuel along its edge as the fuel behind the edge
smolders to ash.

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But powerful winds like those in Fort McMurray can bend the convection
column forward so it passes through the crowns of the trees just ahead of
the fire front. Instead of candling individually, the fire leaps through
the needled crowns even before the fuel behind has finished burning. Then
the process is repeated.

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snip

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Firefighters standing in front of the blaze would suffocate as the fire
consumes the oxygen and replaces it with smoke. That's why, despite
economic damage, they must be pulled out. Water bombers have almost no
effect.

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The complete article may be read at the URL above.

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