Image © 2016 Planet Labs Inc

This week a devastating wildfire has swept across Alberta, Canada, which destroyed approximately 10% of buildings in the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta’s premier city (pictured in the above image).

Fort McMurray has a resident population of just over 78,000 people, situated 435km northeast of Edmonton. On 3rd May 2016, the persistent record-breaking temperatures, low humidity levels and strong winds in the area, resulted in a huge wildfire which rapidly increased and threatened much of the city. Only a few hours after initiation, the size of the fire triggered the mandatory evacuation the resident population, and the evacuation of an additional 30,000 people from neighbouring areas. The blaze covered an area of approximately 1,610km2, which, to set this in context, is roughly the size of London – unimaginable! It has been reported that ~10% of buildings in the city were destroyed or affected by the fire, with the actions of the authorities successfully preventing any loss of life (though it must be noted that sadly two people lost their lives during the evacuation process, due to a traffic collision). This is an amazing achievement given that the wildfire triggered the largest ever recorded evacuation in Canada. There is however, considerably damage to other amenities, so much so that the water is now considered undrinkable and the city has been cut off from the power grid. Despite this, the local hospitals and schools are said to be untouched, which are crucial elements in the recovery process.

Satellite imagery have been captured over the past week which reveals the extent of the damage, as well as an insight into how the event is unfolding as the fire continued to rage. It is believed that satellite imagery will be fundamental to recovery efforts, to help understand which areas require assistance, and where this assistance should be prioritised. Imagery from the MODIS satellite helped to monitor the spread of the fire, using its active fire product, and other satellites have imaged the area, to gain an insight into what is happening.

EarthImages can be used to access imagery from this event, which is vital for recovery operations. Just click on this link to view what imagery is available.

For more information on the Fort McMurray fire, please visit: BBC News.



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