Preliminary analyses have already dubbed the Fort McMurray wildfire the costliest disaster in Canadian history. It is expected to end up costing insurers between $2.4bn and $4.7bn (cdn) if the damage can be limited, though it could go up to $9bn (cdn) if it ends in a similar way to fires of the past. Currently the costliest disaster is the Quebec ice storms of 1998 that racked up a bill of $1.9bn (cdn).
Since first breaking out on Sunday, the Fort McMurray wildfire has grown 5 times its initial size to more than 850 sq km and has become effectively larger than the entire city of Calgary.
The immense size and ferocity of the fire has prompted the evacuation of over 88,000 residents, and while there has been no direct casualties from the fire, there was a vehicle crash during evacuation that resulted in a death.
The fires close proximity to Canada’s oil sands has prompted most operations in the area to halt production. This has resulted in nearly one third of Canada’s entire daily crude capacity, or 64,000 barrels, being cut and causing a momentary 3% jump in the price of oil.
Unsurprisingly, experts believe that climate change and this year’s incredibly strong El Nino have worked in combination to create conditions perfectly suited for fires of this scale, along with massive droughts worldwide. The fire season in Alberta started half a month early this year and has already created 330 fires this year, more than twice the amount that burned through the province last year.