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Relief continues for Canadian municipality hit by wildfires

Nearly 10 percent of the structures in Wood Buffalo destroyed last May by fires.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Relief continues for Canadian municipality hit by wildfires
Parts of Alberta getting tax relief roughly one year after wildfires left properties destroyed and sidelined provincial oil production. Photo by MCpl VanPutten/Canadian Armed Forces/UPI | License Photo

May 2 (UPI) -- A Canadian municipality ravaged by wildfires last year that sidelined Canadian oil production is getting tax relief, the provincial government in Alberta said.

Blazes that devastated parts of Fort McMurray last May idled about 1 million barrels per day worth of regional oil production. About 4,000 small businesses were impacted by the wildfires in an area that contributes substantially to national gross domestic product.

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Shaye Anderson, the provincial minister for municipal affairs, said the municipality of Wood Buffalo, the hardest hit by the fires, would get up to $1.5 million in tax relief for education properties on top of the $3.7 million already allocated earlier this year.

"We welcome this support for residents of Wood Buffalo as we approach the one-year anniversary of the wildfire," Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake said in a statement. "We will continue to work with the government of Alberta to ensure a successful recovery for the people of our community."

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More than 1,370 square miles were impacted by the wildfires and evacuation orders were issued for at least 80,000 people in the area. A regional survey from last year found that of the estimated 20,000 structures assessed, about 1,900 were destroyed.

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Alberta's economy is recovering from a downturn last year brought on by the strains of lower crude oil prices. The province last year was anticipating an $8 billion deficit.

Canada is the No. 1 oil exporter to the United States and remains relatively landlocked because of limited pipeline capacity extending outside the country. Options may evolve, however, with U.S. President Donald Trump embracing the Keystone XL oil pipeline that would reach from Alberta to the southern U.S. coast, though his trade policies may be a broader impediment.

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