Much More than a Fire

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada is on fire (literally). Now unless you’ve done your research about forest fires, I’m sure you’re still wondering how it all began.

The weather condition known as The Crossover occurs when the ambient humidity value is below the recorded temperature. The weather for Tuesday in Alberta was at a high of 30C, while the humidity had dropped to a troubling 15%. As if this wasn’t enough to set the forests alight, the windy weather continues to aid with the spreading to more than 85,000 hectares of Fort McMurray. I know 85,000 hectares may be difficult to visualize, so I’ve taken the courtesy of showing you four Canadian provinces with the red imprint outlining the sheer size of this catastrophic wild fire.


Unbelievable, no?

The movement of this fire across the Athabasca River, the Hangingstone River, and into neighbourhoods was due to two occurrences: spotting and crowning. Spotting occurs when sparks, embers or burning debris are blown by the wind and start new blazes, away from direct contact with the main fire. Crowning is the spread of the fire from one branch to another. A spot fire is what jumped over the Athabasca River, and the crowning helps that spot fire grow. “Spot fires are also troublesome when they are near urban areas because embers ignite rooftops or rain gutters clogged with dead leaves and pine needles.”

The factors conducive to this soon-to-be-historic fire in Fort McMurray continue to pile up, because even the type of trees play a severe part in maintaining and spreading this fire. Fort McMurray contains many Black Spruce, which have thin branches, are easily ignited and blown away to create spot fires. Also, the central structure of the Black Spruce holds many of these branches from the ground to the crown, further helping with the transition from a surface to a crown fire. Aspens (deciduous trees), also prevalent in Fort McMurray, provide an entirely different method conducive to spreading this untamable wild fire especially in May. The aspens have no green leaves around this time of the year, allowing the sunlight and wind to reach straight to the floor which in turn creates conditions for surface fires. All of these factors combined as well as the utter size leads wildfire specialists to believe that nothing we do will put this fire out; all we can do is hope for the weather to bring forth some rain.

I couldn’t help but think about how we as a community would react to such outrageous circumstances. I’m guessing we would do what most would and already are doing…donate. But a recent article shows several Syrian Refugees in Calgary, Alberta, rushing to Fort McMurray’s aid. “It’s not easy to lose everything. We can understand them more than anyone in Canada. We were in the same situation,” said Rita Khanchet. Faith in humanity might just be restored yet again.


Please donate what you can to help.  ICNA Relief Canada and Islamic Relief Canada are collecting donations to help the afflicted.  Above all, never forget the power of dua’a.  May Allah (SWT) alleviate the pain of those suffering and fleeing from the devastation.  Ameen.



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ISNA Canada is an Islamic organization committed to the mission and movement of Islam: nurturing a way of life in the light of the guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah for establishing a vibrant presence of Muslims in Canada. ISNA exists as a platform for all Muslims who share its mission and are dedicated to serving the needs of Muslims and Muslim communities.