May 22, 2019

Canadian wildfires – thousands evacuated

The wildfires have caused a lot of damage but at least the charred remains are of cars and not people.

Officials in Alberta, Canada are struggling to contain dozens of wildfires burning across the province. Hundreds of homes have been desroyed and thousands of people have been forced form their homes.

A large part of the Alberta’s oil production has been forced to shut down as unpredictable winds have fanned the flames and grounded firefighting aircraft and helicopters.

Over the weekend the 7,000 residents of the town of Slave Lake, Alberta were evacuated when the fires could not be held back.

Slave Lake, is about 100 miles north of the capital, Edmonton, and the evcuation is one of the biggest in Alberta’s history. The town was left to burn, and official’s estimate that at least a third of the buildings there have been destroyed.

Royal Dutch Shell Group PLC’s Canadian division said it would stop production at two affected fields, which together produce around 10,000 barrels of oil a day.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. said it evacuated 1,300 workers from one of its facilities as fires approached. It said firefighters had so far protected its site. The company shut down some oil production in another location because of the proximity of fires. Pengrowth Energy Corp. said Tuesday it had shutdown 5,000 barrels a day of production.

No casualties or injuries have been reported to date but the disruption to people’s lives and the economy has been significant.

Alberta’s oil industry was already in crisis following the leaking of 28,000 barrels of oil earlier this month in the largest spill of its type since 1975. A section of the Plains All American Pipeline LP’s oil pipeline was shut down as a result and now the fires have forced the rest of it to stop as well.

Mel Knight, Alberta’s minister of sustainable resource development, said that 41 fires were raging across the province, including 12 that were still out of control.

In an interview in his office, Mr. Knight said 1,000 firefighters were battling blazes; more than a dozen water-bombing aircraft had been deployed; and more than 100 helicopters were flying firefighting sorties.

“We’ll get the situation under control,” he said.

Residents of Slave Lake were still recovering Tuesday from what for some turned out to be an all-night rush to escape towering flames that surrounded the town.

Early Sunday, authorities had ordered a limited evacuation of the town. But a sudden wind shift later in the day sent an out-of-control fire roaring through the community’s center and southern suburbs.

A ribbon of cars and trucks, packed with what few belongings families could collect, crawled from the town through the night along the only road that remained open.