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Published: Fri, May 06, 2016
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Evacuations increase as wildfire spreads in Alberta, Canada


Officials said they have yet to determine what caused the fire, although they know it started in a remote area about 15 kilometres from the city.

Chad Morrison with AB Wildfire, manager of wildfire prevention, said the wildfire grew rapidly, fuelled by gusting winds and they expect the fire to grow on Thursday but away from the community.

There have been no reports of fire-related deaths or injuries, although two people died in a head-on vehicle crash on one of the secondary evacuation routes Wednesday.

"This rare step has been taken from the advice of officials", Phillips said.

The winds pushed flames towards the local airport, which suffered minor damage and was open for limited non-commercial operations, officials said.

On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it "the largest fire evacuation in Alberta's history". Officials are now trying to fly 8,000 evacuees out of the area starting Thursday afternoon and are hoping the highway becomes safe enough to move people that way. At least 16-hundred structures have been destroyed in the Alberta city.

"You could add five times the number of firefighters, but you can't get all the embers", Center for Fire Research and Outreach at University of California, Berkeley co-director Bill Stewart told the Associated Press.

"It's typical of the disruptions you see when something like this happens. just quite a bit bigger than some of the past experiences", he said.

There is no stopping the advance of a fire such as the wind-driven flames in Alberta, which is spreading embers well beyond fire lines, Stewart said.

Oil prices jumped early Thursday, Reuters reported, noting that prices were also affected by escalating fighting in Libya. "There's no way to put out every ember flying over firefighters' heads".

Shell said it has shut down production at its Shell Albian Sands mining operations near the city in order to focus on getting families out of the region. Most of Alberta's oil sands facilities are north of the city and not in the path of the flames.

"I think the Canada wildfires are the main reason for the rise in oil prices today on top of the USA production decline", IG Markets analyst Bernard Aw told AFP.

Dunn, an oilsands analyst for Calgary investment firm FirstEnergy Capital, said he thinks production is actually down one million barrels per day, while RBC Dominion Securities analyst Greg Pardy estimates it's down 900,000 to one million bpd - 35 to 38 per cent of RBC's forecast average of 2.6 million bpd for 2016.

"As things stand now the industry will be well positioned to ramp back up once the fire is under control", Notley said.

"The question for oil production is beyond this week, looking out several weeks, how materially displaced the labour force is in Fort McMurray and for how long and how does that impact their ability to get to the sites to work their shifts". Firefighters, however, are beginning to make progress, he said.

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