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Oil-Sands Capital of Canada Now Grappling With Second Wildfire


These translations are done via Google Translate
  • New out-of-control blaze springs up north of Fort McMurray
  • Earlier fire grew in size overnight and came closer to city

The unofficial capital of Canada’s oil-sands industry is now facing a second wildfire that’s north of the city and closer to major energy operations.

The new blaze near Fort McMurray, Alberta, is about 3 hectares (7 acres) in size, and is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from Suncor Energy Inc.’s Millennium and Steepbank mine sites, provincial data show. Shifting winds and cooler weather allowed firefighters on Wednesday to resume establishing a containment line around an earlier, larger inferno southwest of the city.

The fires are increasing the threat to the city of 70,000 as well as the massive oil-sands operations that produce the bulk of Canada’s 4.9 million barrels of daily crude output. Already, more than 6,000 people have been evacuated from Fort McMurray communities, and long-term prospects of rain extinguishing the blazes are low.

“It doesn’t look like there are going to be any weather systems that is going to put an end to the fires in the near future,” said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with commercial forecaster AccuWeather Inc. “Over the next couple of days there is at least a threat they are going to get a shower up there, but it doesn’t look like anything big.”

Wildfire Threatens City in Heart of Canadian Oil Sands

Blaze burns less than 4 miles from Fort McMurray landfill as some residents flee

Source: Alberta Wildfire

Fort McMurray — in a remote and heavily forested area — was ravaged by a blaze in 2016 that burned down large sections of the city, forcing thousands to evacuate and temporarily shutting more than 1 million barrels a day of oil output. The fire caused about C$3.7 billion ($2.7 billion) in insured losses, making it Canada’s costliest natural disaster.

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While the oil-sands mines are well outside of city limits, many of the operations’ employees live in the town, while others live at worker camps on site.

Suncor, which operates oil-sands mines to the north of the city, said the latest fire hasn’t affected operations.

“There is no risk to our operations at this time,” Leithan Slade, a spokesman, said by email. “However, we recognize there are employees and contractors affected by this situation and their safety is our top priority.”

The earlier blaze south of Fort McMurray grew overnight to 21,000 hectares and came within 5.5 kilometers of the city’s landfill as of 8 a.m., Alberta Wildfire said. Winds were expected to weaken and push the fire away from Fort McMurray, helping firefighting efforts.

That fire prompted an alert Friday that put the city’s residents on notice to be prepared to leave. On Tuesday, a state of local emergency was declared, and residents in communities on the south side of the city were told to evacuate.

More than 65% of Canada was abnormally parched or in drought at the end of March, threatening another smoke-filled summer after last year’s fire season, which was Canada’s worst on record.

Smoke from wildfires blankets Edmonton, Alberta, on May 11.Photographer: Jason Franson/The Canadian Press/AP

Imperial Oil Ltd., which operates an oil-sands mine called Kearl near the city, said in an email that it has reduced staffing levels to essential personnel only, but faces “no direct impacts” to operations. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s daily operations remain stable, and the company is monitoring the situation, Julie Woo, spokeswoman, said by email.



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