The situation playing out in the oil-built city of Fort McMurray right now is nothing short of a catastrophe: a wildfire that covers around 10,000 hectares of land has forced the 80,000 people that once lived there to pack their bags and flee. In the chaos, two people died in a crash on the highway. Entire neighbourhoods have been razed, millions of dollars in damage has been done, and the fire—now almost five times the size it was when the evacuation began—shows no sign of slowing down.
Due to the size and heat of the blaze, firefighters are having a near-impossible time fighting the fire, with some experts saying that, short of an inland tsunami, only a severe change in weather will be able to actually quell the flames for good. With uncertainty in what might happen, images of residents and emergency responders have emerged on social media by the troves.
Dashcam videos from those who got out have been especially revealing. A lot of images coming out of the fire have been from the inside of vehicles on packed highways and smoky streets. One posted yesterday, from a YouTube channel that has a series of dash cam videos from inside Fort McMurray, shows the apocalyptic scenery inside the evacuation zone as ash and embers rain down on a parade of cars trying to make it to the highway.
The evacuation itself was swift but disorderly. In many videos, cars can be seen driving over grass, clearing curbs and even cutting through backyards to get away from the burning neighbourhoods behind them. First responders continue to arrive and the current number of firefighters on scene is around 150, according to the CBC.
One man posted a video on Instagram that showed a first-person look at his neighbourhood on fire as he said goodbye to his house for the final time. The video, shot from his cellphone, sees him get into the car while panting heavily, eventually driving past burning lawns and a smoky skyline.
Some locals have also come together to bring fuel, food, water, and clothing to those stranded on the outskirts of the city or on nearby highways. An Edmonton man posted on Facebook yesterday that he would be taking as much as he could towards Fort McMurray, asking anyone who needed help to put a sock on their antenna to alert him. The post received nearly 60,000 shares in less than 24 hours, and similar posts have emerged on Twitter since then.
All flights to and from the area have been grounded, and the Alberta government has declared an official state of emergency. Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said that the Canadian Forces have been requested by the provincial government, but no formal plans for their use have been made public.
Follow Jake Kivanç on Twitter.