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Canadian oil sands cleared for re-entry near fire-ravaged Fort McMurray

Fort McMurray fires remain out of control, through threat is moving east toward Saskatchewan.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Though wildfires continue to burn out of control, provincial authorities have cleared the re-entry to oil areas in Canada as threat moves east and away from Alberta. Photo by MCpl VanPutten/Canadian Armed Forces/UPI
Though wildfires continue to burn out of control, provincial authorities have cleared the re-entry to oil areas in Canada as threat moves east and away from Alberta. Photo by MCpl VanPutten/Canadian Armed Forces/UPI | License Photo

EDMONTON, Alberta, May 24 (UPI) -- With wildfires in Canada making their way east, provincial authorities in Alberta said the oil-rich parts of the region are cleared for operations.

Alberta's government said wildfires that erupted in early May remain out of control in the Fort McMurray area, home to some of the largest oil sands installations in the country. While more than 2,000 square miles of land are affected, the fires are moving east and now cover about 10 square miles in neighboring Saskatchewan.

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A mandatory evacuation order remains in place for Fort McMurray and the surrounding municipalities, though the provincial government said workers can start heading back into the region.

"The phased re-entry for all oil sands camps in the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo is underway," the provincial government announced.

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Suncor, one of the larger companies operating in the area, said it was sending its employees back to the area in order to begin a staged restart of its facilities in Wood Buffalo. The company said utility services at its facilities are back in order and there was no damage to any of its infrastructure.

"Given our current assessment, we are confident we can safely return people to the region to begin the process of restarting operations," Suncor President and CEO Steve Williams said in a statement. "We believe that getting our employees back to work is an important part of the process to get things back to normal in Fort McMurray."

Residents in Fort McMurray can start returning home June 1.

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As much as 1 million barrels per day worth of Canadian oil production was impacted by the fires, putting supply-side pressures on crude oil prices. Canada is the top oil exporter to the United States.

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