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A huge fire is sweeping through Canada’s oil sands region in Fort McMurray, Alberta, already having destroyed an entire neighborhood and forcing 80,000 people to flee.
The fire started in Fort McMurray on Sunday and spread quickly to the outskirts, prompting what is being categorized as the largest wildfire evacuation mission in the history of Alberta.
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This city is the focal point of the Canadian oil sands industry in Alberta, which is home to the third largest oil reserves in the world.
The uncontrolled wildfire has forced a mandatory evacuation for the entire city, due to rapid spreading, and the routes in and out of the city’s south are blocked. The authorities are directing evacuees to the north.
In the meantime, hot and dry winds are threatening to worsen the wildfire.
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According to Canadian media reports, many evacuees are fleeing to oil and gas company work camps in outlying areas, where emergency shelters and services have reportedly been set up.
These camps have been increasingly deserted due to losses of jobs as a result of low oil prices beginning in mid-2014. More than 40,000 oil and gas jobs have been cut in Canada since 2014.
Suncor Energy, whose oil sands operations are closest to Fort McMurray, said its plant was safe, but it was reducing crude production in the region to allow employees and families to reach safety.
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Shell Canada also said it would open its oil sands camp to evacuees.
CNOOC’s subsidiary, Nexen Energy, also has the Long Lake oil-sands project, close to Fort McMurray. The company has said it was likewise slowing operations in light of the wildfire and the evacuation mandate.
On Wednesday, oil rose above $45 due the reduced output.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com