Oil didn’t cause the Fort McMurray fire — it helped save people’s lives

financial ostFinancial Post | May 5, 2016 | Kevin Libin

There are countless stories of human heroism to be found in this week’s mass evacuation of 88,000 people from Fort McMurray safely, without any reported injuries or deaths. But there’s one hero that will go unsung, as usual, despite showing up as a saviour in virtually every harrowing news report about the emergency. So, please, let’s all take a moment now to thank our lucky stars for … oil.

The technology of fossil fuel combustion is relatively modern; forest combustion is not. Wildfires have been routinely sweeping across vast swathes of Albertan forest long before the first settler arrived. The regular, mass conflagration of immense stands of trees is a natural and necessary part of a forest’s life cycle. But now that we’ve put cities in fire’s path, the only critical chemical substance that has kept humans from succumbing to those flames also happens to be Alberta’s No. 1 export to the world: wonderful, unloved petroleum.

As alarm over the approaching flames began rapidly spreading through Fort McMurray Tuesday night, and the evacuation was ordered, there was one thing everyone desperately wanted access to: a car or truck with a tank full of gasoline, so they could drive themselves and their loved ones to safety.

Service stations were lined up hundreds deep. Fleet of buses were commandeered to clear people out of neighbourhoods. One fast-thinking resident, Mohamad Bouchaaala, a Suncor employee, realizing his own car’s tank was too low on fuel to get far, had to scramble to the airport to rent a fully gassed Jeep to save his wife and three kids. As National Post reporter Tristin Hopper reported in an inspiring story, dozens of volunteers loaded up trucks with tanks and cans filled with diesel and gasoline to distribute to those needing it. United Rentals in Fort McMurray offered up its available fuel trucks. Good Samaritans patrolled the roads leading out of town providing food, water, blankets and, of course, unleaded petrol, to anyone stranded on the highway. People siphoned gas to share from their tanks to their neighbours without.

Read full story here.