The un­for­get­table fire

Alberta Oil - - OBSERVER | NEWS NUMBERS PEOPLE PLACES -

MAY WAS ONLY A FEW HOURS OLD WHEN

a small brush fire—one of many burn­ing across Al­berta— sud­denly whipped up into a full-force con­fla­gra­tion that would raze en­tire neigh­bor­hoods of Fort McMur­ray, the heart of the coun­try’s en­ergy in­dus­try. The fire would take weeks to ex­tin­guish, leav­ing be­hind the wreck­age of the most ex­pen­sive nat­u­ral dis­as­ter in Cana­dian his­tory. Its im­pact on the oil sec­tor—mea­sured in work camp evac­u­a­tions, up­grader shut­downs and ab­sent per­son­nel— would take a per­cep­ti­ble chunk out of Canada’s GDP be­fore operations were re­stored. But dis­as­ters of­ten ex­pose the hero­ism of ev­ery­day peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions. The Al­berta en­ergy in­dus­try, al­ready blood­ied by two years of slump­ing mar­kets, rose to the oc­ca­sion by feed­ing and shel­ter­ing evac­uees, and push­ing its pri­vate fire­fight­ing equip­ment into ser­vice pro­tect­ing the com­mu­nity’s homes while leav­ing oil sands operations largely un­guarded. It will be years be­fore the phys­i­cal scars of the fire are fully erased from the face of Fort McMur­ray. The peo­ple there will never for­get the trauma of those days, nor those who rose to meet the chal­lenges.

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