The unforgettable fire
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.