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Fort McMurray wildfire "unprecendented," losses could top $2B, expert says

A wildland fire expert describes the fire at Fort McMurray as "unprecendented," saying insurable losses could exceed two billion dollars, although others say it will be even higher.

'This is unprecedented, the evacuation scale, numbers of structures lost' says wildland fire expert.

Analysis of Fort McMurray fire

6 years ago
Duration 1:30
Financial costs and destruction in Fort McMurray examined by Mike Flannigan, University of Alberta professor of wildland fire .

A wildland fire expert describes the fire at Fort McMurray as "unprecendented," saying insurable losses could exceed two billion dollars, although others say it will be even higher.

"The evacuation scale, number of structures lost, there is nothing comparable in terms of economic cost," said Mike Flannigan, professor of renewable resources at the University of Alberta on Thursday.

"Slave Lake insurable losses were over $700 million dollars. This is easily going to exceed a billion, we may be talking two billion. It's going to be huge."
"This fire is going to continue to spread as long as there's a wind to blow it, as long as there's fuels to burn," said Mike Flannigan, professor of wildland fire at the U of A. (CBC)

The best thing to stop the wildfire is rain, and lots of it, he added.

"We have something in Alberta called the June monsoon, and that can't come soon enough," Flannigan said. "Often with the June monsoons we get 25 mm, 50 mm."

At the very least, Flannigan said if the winds abate and temperatures remain cooler, firefighters may be able to get on the ground and contain or corral it.

The weather forecast for the Fort McMurray area calls for cooler temperatures and some showers for next week.

Flames are seen from the Sawridge Motel in Fort McMurray, Alta., on May 3, 2016. (Terry Reith)

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