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Fort McMurray residents eye resettlement plans after devastating wildfire

Oil sands installations spared and slowly returning to normal.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Canadian oil companies say their installations were spared by fires. Leaders in Alberta are reviewing resettlement options and surveying damage. Photo by MCpl VanPutten/Canadian Armed Forces/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/3ce779d31eed1d6823ab89810ce03e93/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Canadian oil companies say their installations were spared by fires. Leaders in Alberta are reviewing resettlement options and surveying damage. Photo by MCpl VanPutten/Canadian Armed Forces/UPI | License Photo

EDMONTON, Alberta, May 19 (UPI) -- Leaders in Alberta announced plans to move residents back into parts of Fort McMurray, Canada, at the same time that energy companies survey their regional operations.

"Many hazards remain in Fort McMurray," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said in a statement. "We need to address them before it's safe for residents to return home."

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Local and provincial officials said they're calling for voluntary resettlement for Fort McMurray residents starting June 1, provided wildfire conditions aren't prohibitive. A survey of the region finds that, of the 19,244 structures assessed, 1,921 were destroyed and 17,156 were deemed safe to occupy.

More than 1,370 square miles are impacted by the wildfires in Fort McMurray, near the heart of the Canadian oil sands industry. Evacuation orders were issued two weeks ago for at least 80,000 people in the town.

Around 1 million barrels of oil per day are impacted by the Fort McMurray wildfires. Canada is the No. 1 oil exporter to the United States and the wildfires have influenced short-term market trends.

Some installations, like those for Shell Canada, are operating at a limited capacity. Canadian Natural Resources said the fires are at safe distance from its facilities and there is no damage to infrastructure.

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"Current operations remain stable," the company said in a statement.

Melissa Blake, the mayor of the Wood Buffalo municipality, said the devastation was "immeasurable."

Re-entry is expected to be completed by mid June.

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