Skip to navigationSkip to content
Reuters/Topher Seguin
A storm of wind and fire.
SCORCHED EARTH

Watch: The apocalyptic scene in Canada, where a town built on oil sands has gone up in flames

A devastating wildfire continues to spread in northern Alberta, Canada, across the heart of the region’s oil sands—home to the world’s third largest reserves of crude oil. As of this writing, about 16% of Canada’s crude oil production has been halted due to the fire.

The boomtown at the center of the industry, and the blaze, is Fort McMurray, whose entire population of 88,000 was ordered to evacuate yesterday. One of those residents was Michel Chamberland, who filmed this footage while driving away. It’s pretty grim.

As of Wednesday, nearly 2,000 buildings had been burned beyond repair. This fire is being called the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history, and may go down as the costliest wildfire in all of North America. The blaze started on Sunday, intensified suddenly on Tuesday, and is currently ”out of control.”

Evacuation orders have expanded to towns south of Fort McMurray, including some places where Fort McMurray residents had decamped to for safe haven.

A recent drought and milder-than-usual winter provided the dry conditions fueling the fire. Speculation that it’s connected to global climate change and fitting retribution for fossil fuel use has not been received well, least of all by the fire’s victims. Still, some observers are calling Fort McMurray residents “climate change refugees.”

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.