Bay Area Fire Officials Watch, Learn From Massive Canada Blaze

Fire officials in the Bay Area are watching intently as a massive wildfire devours communities in Alberta, Canada.

The blaze has charred nearly 400 square miles and forced more than 85,000 evacuations, and experts like Bill Stewart, a UC Berkeley forestry specialist, say it should provide a warning to firefighters and residents across the Bay Area.

He said the Canada fire is similar to recent ones that occurred in Northern California, citing last year’s Lake County fire and others that happened closer to home.

“When everything catches on fire, that’s just what it looks like; scary beyond belief,” Stewart said.

Such damaging fires, officials said, often happen in growing communities and show how critical quick evacuations are. Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said the dry conditions in the Canadian city of Fort McMurray could be similar to those found in the Bay Area, especially after the four-year drought.

“It’s a very good reminder for all of us here in California just how destructive fires can be,” Berlant said, adding that the dry spell in California has caused about 29 million dead trees. “Drought and significant tree mortality increase the fire risk.”

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