Canada wildfire: Oil workers urged to leave Fort McMurray camps

Around 12,000 people have been urged to leave Canada’s
oil sands camps near the fire-hit town of Fort McMurray
as a resurgent wildfire heads towards them.
A regional official told the BBC that 8,000 people were given
precautionary evacuation orders late on Monday, in
addition to some 4,000 who had already been advised to
More than 80,000 people fled the fire that hit Fort McMurray
two weeks ago.
Air quality in the Alberta city is still at dangerously high
A reading on Monday found the level to be 38 – far
exceeding the provincial index’s most dangerous level of 10.
The vast fire had moved away from Fort McMurray but in
recent days it has started to threaten the area again.
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A number of oil workers had begun in recent days to return
to the oil facilities north and south of Fort McMurray to
restart production.
But on Monday, they were warned that the wildfire was
travelling at 30-40 metres per minute north of Fort
Over the course of the day, the Regional Municipality of
Wood Buffalo extended its precautionary evacuation
orders to all camps north of Fort McMurray and south of
Fort McKay.
These include the large Suncor and Syncrude sites.
Suncor confirmed, in a statement, it had “started a staged
and orderly shutdown of our base plant operations” and its
staff were being transported to camps further north.
“Suncor has enhanced fire mitigation and protection around
all of its facilities,” it said. “When it is safe to do so, we will
continue implementing our restart plans.”
Thick smoke and ash over a wide area are said to be
hampering the fire-fighting operation and hot-dry winds
have been fanning the flames.
Fire crews were also trying to control a blaze south-east of
Fort McMurray that is threatening an oil installation, and
another fire is burning not far from the Fort McMurray
neighbourhood of Timberlea.
Canada’s oil sands industry
Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water, clay and a thick,
heavy oil called bitumen
Bitumen is extracted using surface mining and drilling, and
must be treated before it can be turned into petrol and
other usable fuels
Canada has the third largest oil reserves in the world after
Venezuela and Saudi Arabia
The Alberta oil sands produced about 2.3 million barrels a
day in 2014
Source: Alberta government
Canada’s black gold oil rush
Meanwhile, work is under way to restore essential services
to Fort McMurray, paving the way for the return of the
80,000 residents.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said on Monday that
electricity had been restored to most of the city, the water-
treatment plant was working and the airport was ready to
But she has warned against anyone trying to return until air
quality readings drop significantly. “This is something that
could potentially delay recovery work and a return to the
community,” she added.
Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau told CBC News that
the cost of the disaster was still being evaluated.
“We’re obviously going to stand shoulder to shoulder with
the people in Fort McMurray and rebuild the city,” he said.
The wildfire still covers about 2,410 sq km (930 sq miles) and
is expected to burn for a few more weeks.
Are you an oil worker who returned to the area or in
one of the camps? Have you been affected by the fires?
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