Wed, May 18, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Workers evacuated from Canadian oil camps due to fires

FEELING THE HEAT:Crews continued to battle hot spots on the edge of Fort McMurray, while the fires continued to rage out of control in the forest

AP, FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta

An ATCO Electric employee works on a newly erected 25,000 volt power line in heavy smoke from wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA

About 8,000 workers at oil camps north of the fire-ravaged Canadian city of Fort McMurray were ordered to evacuate late on Monday as authorities continued the battle to bring wildfires under control.

The mandatory evacuation zone was extended to 50km north of the city, whose 80,000 residents have been out of their homes for more than two weeks.

Suncor, one of the major operators working on Canada’s oil sands, issued a news release late on Monday confirming that it had “started a staged and orderly shutdown of our base plant operations” and that personnel were being transported to work camps further north. It added that there has been no damage to Suncor infrastructure.

The workers had been trying to restart oil production at the facilities after they were halted by the fires and by the need to house a flood of people from Fort McMurray seeking safety. Those people have since been transferred further south.

“Suncor has enhanced fire mitigation and protection around all of its facilities,” the release said. “When it is safe to do so, we will continue implementing our restart plans.”

The fire destroyed more than 2,400 structures in Fort McMurray, although firefighters managed to save essential infrastructure in the oil sands capital, including the hospital, water treatment plant and the airport.

Crews continued to battle hot spots on the edge of Fort McMurray on Monday, while the fires still raged out of control deeper in the forest. Hot, dry conditions were not helping firefighters.

Earlier on Monday, officials warned the air quality in the Fort McMurray area was dangerously poor.

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Karen Grimsrud said the air quality readings are expected to remain in the extreme range for the next couple of days.

She said workers in the area should be wearing respirators.

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