The massive Fort McMurray wildfire is eating through the northern boreal forest of Alberta. It rages out of control. It is now an estimated 432 000 hectares(4230 square kilometres) in size and growing. Gusty winds are pushing the flames toward the Saskatchewan border. Fire fighters are hoping that the Athabasca River will serve as a sufficient firebreak to stop its eastward progress.
The fire also threatens some suburbs of Ft. McMurray again but emergency workers there are confident that they can prevent another incursion. The emergency workers had two explosions today that remain unexplained. It is as yet unexplained but some speculation names the resumption of the natural gas service.
The companies in the Oil Sands were starting to resume operations, but have been forced to shut down again as the fire spread north to threaten the residences of the oil workers. One lodge that had accommodation for 655 was burned. Others were threatened.
Spokespersons for the oil companies have reassured the public that they have sufficient firebreaks, personnel and equipment to prevent the flames from reaching the open pit operations.
The losses to the northern oil operations are mounting. Suncor routinely produces 591 000 barrels per day, Syncrude 350 000 barrels. The losses are being counted in the billions.
To date there are over 90 000 people displaced. The optimistic view is that some resident of Ft. McMurray will be allowed back starting June 1st. There is a great deal of uncertainty for the residents as many work directly in the oil sands and many work in jobs that support the industry.
Human services are trying to mitigate the situation by handing out loaded debit cards. To date $65.7 million has been handed to people. Schools in Edmonton and Calgary have opened their classrooms to the children so they may continue their school year. Youngsters who are in grade 12 will be excused the need to write the provincial government exams.
There are agencies working to care for and reunite pets with their families.
The federal government has pledged to match private donations to the Red Cross Ft. McMurray relief fund. As of six days ago private donations added up to $67 million.
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