World Bulletin / News Desk
One year ago, a forest fire in Fort McMurray at the heart of the Canadian oil industry forced nearly 100,000 people to flee their homes and blackened an area half the size of Belgium within the following two months.
- May 1, 2016: A brush fire starts near Fort McMurray, an oil city 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Edmonton, the capital of Alberta province.
- May 2: Thick smoke from the forest fire blows toward the city, prompting officials to order the evacuation of 500 people.
- May 3: Fanned by strong winds, the flames spread to the northern tip of the city. A mandatory evacuation order is issued to 30,000 residents at 3 pm local time (2100 GMT).
- At 6 pm, a general alert is isued urging all residents to flee immediately after several hundred homes burn down.
- May 5: An airlift is organized to rescue 8,000 people stranded north of the city. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley warns the public that a return to the city won't happen anytime soon.
- May 6: A safe corridor is established allowing 17,000 motorists trapped in the north to be evacuated over four days, 50 at a time.
- May 9: Notley calls the safe evacuation of thousands nothing less than "a miracle." There are only two injuries during the evacuation, from a traffic accident.
- May 13: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travels to Fort McMurray after facing criticism for his late response to the disaster. Anger rumbles among the tens of thousands of displaced residents living in makeshift emergency shelters.
- May 17: The fire continues to spread. Flames ravage an oil worker camp with 665 dwellers, 18 others within 50 kilometers of Fort McMurray are evacuated.
- May 19: The fire spreads to neighboring Saskatchewan province, 80 kilometers to the east.
- May 24: Oil sands companies that had slowed or stopped production of about one million barrels of oil per day order employees to start returning to work.
- June 1: One month after the wildfire erupts, Fort McMurray residents begin to return home.
- June 6: Production at Suncor, Canada's largest oil company, resumes.
- July 4: Firefighters announce that the blaze is under control after some 5,890 square kilometers (2,274 square miles or 589,000 hectares) have burned.
- July 7: Insurers estimate the cost of the wildfire damage will top Can$3.7 billion (US$2.7 billion), making it the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.
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