Alberta honors the tens of thousands of individuals who played a role in the response to May wildfires. Photo by MCpl VanPutten/Canadian Armed Forces/UPI | License Photo
EDMONTON, Alberta, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Six months after wildfires sidelined millions of barrels of oil from Alberta, the province said it was honoring first responders who battled on the front lines.
Blazes that devastated parts of Fort McMurray idled about 1 million barrels per day worth of regional oil production in May. Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate the region and the municipality of Wood Buffalo and the provincial government have spent much of the year helping the area recover.
"Today we reflect on the actions of the hundreds of Albertans who, during the Wood Buffalo wildfire, went above and beyond in the service of their community," provincial Premier Rachel Notley said in a statement.
The provincial government said about 12,000 people played a direct role in wildfire emergency response efforts. As many as 90,000 people were initially evacuated from the area in the largest emergency response in Canadian history.
In a separate move, the government proposed a new measure aimed at reducing the number of fires caused by human activity.
"We have seen first-hand how devastating wildfires can be to those who live and work in Alberta's forests," Paul Whittaker, the president and CEO of the Alberta Forest Products Association, said.
The measure would strengthen penalties for human-induced blazes, designate March 1 as the official start of the fire season and simplify some of the response activities, among other things.
The provincial government estimates about 70 percent of all wildfires of the last five years were linked to human activity. Authorities ruled out lightning and other factors for the May fires, suggesting that blaze may be linked to human activity.