Oil Sands Blaze Continues To Force Evacuations

Published at 10:42AM - 17/05/16

The sudden movement of the massive wildfire around the oil sands hub in Fort McMurray, Canada, has prompted the evacuation of 4,000 people from work camps.

The fire continues to grow, forcing fire fighters to protect the facilities located north of the city, Reuters reported.

“The urgency we’re looking at is with regards to the oil and gas infrastructure”, said Scott Long, the executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

Oil Sands Blaze Continues To Force Evacuations

In the meantime, Suncor Energy Inc. and Syncrude Canada confirmed they have evacuated workers from the affected area, as their facilities faced a precautionary notice with the fire still some 10-12 miles away.

Overall, a dozen work camps south of the major projects faced mandatory evacuation notices.

The whole population of Fort McMurray – about 90,000 people – was forced to evacuate two weeks ago as the uncontrolled wildfire destroyed about 15% of structures across the city.

The blaze is now covering 285,000 hectares. By Monday evening, it was moving 98 to 131 feet every minute and has jumped a critical firebreak north of the city.

Suncor Oil Sands Near Fort McMurray
Suncor Oil Sands Near Fort McMurray

Extreme Fire Behaviour

“When you have this type of extreme fire behaviour, it doesn’t matter what tankers you put in front of it, or how many helicopters. Mother nature is going to continue to move that fire forward”, said wildfire manager Chad Morrison.

According to Enbridge, some pipelines in and out of the terminal are operating, and the situation was being monitored. However, roughly a million barrels per day of oil sands crude production was shut as a precaution. 

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau told CBC News that the Fort McMurray fire would be a challenge to the economy as well as a human challenge, but provided no estimate in terms of how much the disaster is expected to cost the federal government.