A massive wildfire raging in the Canadian province of Alberta grew to 200,000 hectares. More than 80,000 people have emptied Fort McMurray in the heart of Canada’s oil sands, authorities said. Firefighters started to realize the uniquely destructive nature of the Fort McMurray wildfire when they saw aspen poplar trees instantaneously and loudly explode into fire. The aspen does not readily burn, not with its green leaves and thick twigs. But in the hottest of fires, gases are released in the combustion process so it’s possible for a tree to heat up, ignite and catch fire all at once, as if it had exploded. 

More than 1,100 firefighters, 145 helicopters and 22 air tankers are helping fight the fires, but with fire is burning at more than 10,000 kilowatts per metre, aircraft water bombing is no longer effective. 

The Alberta government declared a province-wide fire ban in an effort to reduce the risk of more blazes in a province that is very hot and dry. The government also declared mandatory evacuation order for areas near Fort McMurray, the hub of the country’s oil-sands industry widened and key transportation routes remained closed. Even though now  the fire has largely pushed through Fort McMurray, the town is still too dangerous to enter. Thousands of evacuees are camped out in nearby towns but stand little chance of returning soon, even if their homes are intact. The city’s gas has been turned off, its power grid is damaged, and the water is undrinkable.
El Niño and ongoing climate change have both contributed to the devastating Alberta wildfires according to experts. 
The weather phenomenon has caused much drier conditions than normal, leading to a massive increase in the number of fires in the province. Alberta has had 330 wildfires already this year, more than double the recent annual average.
Forest conditions are changing, in part due to climate change, but also as a result of firefighting practices, probably the largest of which has been interrupting the natural cycle of fires.
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