[Environment] 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

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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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Sincerely,
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