Loading articles...

Fort McMurray wildfire six years later: what have Albertans learned from the natural disaster?

Last Updated May 4, 2022 at 7:29 am MDT

Six years ago plumes of smoke billowed black as the Fort McMurray wildfire consumed entire neighbourhoods in its path.

Cars rushed bumper to bumper as more than 80,000 people evacuated the blazing city.

In the aftermath, 2,400 homes and businesses were destroyed by flames and smoke.

May 3 marked the sixth anniversary of the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire that did an estimated $9 billion in damage, according to the Canadian Disaster Database.

“Large wildfires are totally inevitable,” said Jim Mandeville, the senior vice-president of First Onsite Property Restoration.

Mandeville admits when it comes to wildfires in northern Alberta, “they’ve been happening since long before people lived in those Boreal forests, they will continue to happen long after people live in those Boreal forests.”


But that’s not what’s causing concern now.

“The issue is we’ve gone and built these great big communities in places that historically burned every hundred or couple hundred of years,” said Mandeville.

There have been 158 wildfires reported in Alberta this year.

“It’s unlikely that we’d see a Fort McMurray kind of fire today across much of northern Alberta because there’s just far more precipitation on the ground,” said Derrick Forsythe, an Alberta Wildlife information officer. “It’s wetter, the snow’s still out in a lot of the tree lines. The conditions just aren’t the same as they were when the Fort McMurray fire took off.”

Last year, two-thirds of wildfires were caused by human activity. That’s down from recent years.

“Albertans are taking that messaging that we put out seriously and trying to be as careful as possible when they’re in the woods, generally speaking,” said Forsythe.