Canada getting on top of Alberta wildfire, Fort McMurray off limits

Updated: 2016-05-09 10:06


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Canada getting on top of Alberta wildfire, Fort McMurray off limits

Smoke and flames from the wildfires erupt behind a car on the highway near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, May 7, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

The broader wildfire, moving southeast through wooded areas away from the town, would still take a long time to "clean up," Morrison cautioned. Officials had previously warned that the fire could burn for months.

Alberta's government estimated on Sunday that the fire had consumed 161,000 hectares (395,000 acres). That was less than a previous estimate, but authorities warned the fire would likely grow overnight.

Fort McMurray is the center of Canada's oil sands region. About half of the crude output from the sands, or one million barrels per day, has been taken offline, according to a Reuters estimate.

The inferno looks set to become the costliest natural disaster in Canada's history. One analyst estimated insurance losses could exceed C$9 billion ($7 billion).

Officials said on Sunday the fire had done minor damage at CNOOC unit Nexen's Long Lake facility, in the site's yard. It was the first reported damage to an energy industry asset since the fire began.

Morrison said the blaze was southwest of a Suncor Energy Inc facility, which Suncor identified as its base oil sands mining site north of Fort McMurray, and also near an unidentified Syncrude facility.

Air tankers, helicopters and bulldozers had kept the fire from reaching those sites, according to Morrison. "We'll see how the day goes, but with the cooler weather, I do expect to hold the fire there," he said.

Suncor said on Sunday it will allow employees to return to work as soon as it is safe to do so. "We are hopeful that this will be soon," the company said in a statement.

The company added that it was making plans to use lodges and camps for temporary employee housing and arranging for workers to commute from Calgary and Edmonton.

Notley said she would meet with energy executives on Tuesday to talk about the impact of the fire and how the province can help them resume operations.