UPDATE 4-Oil sand work camps evacuated as Alberta wildfire moves north

Mon May 16, 2016 9:48pm EDT
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(Releads on threat to oil sands, adds new quotes from officials)

By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta May 16 (Reuters) - A massive wildfire burning around the oil sands hub of Fort McMurray was growing and moving rapidly north late on Monday, forcing firefighters to shift their focus to protecting major oil sand facilities north of the city, officials said.

The sudden movement of the fire prompted the evacuation of some 4,000 people from work camps outside Fort McMurray, with all northbound traffic once again cut off at the city, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said.

Suncor Energy Inc and Syncrude Canada confirmed they had evacuated workers from the affected area. Their major facilities were under a precautionary notice with the fire still some 15 to 20 kms (10-12 miles) away, officials said.

A dozen work camps south of the major projects faced mandatory evacuation notices.

"The urgency we're looking at is with regards to the oil gas infrastructure," Scott Long, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, told reporters in Edmonton, adding Fort McMurray itself appeared to be safe for now.

The entire population of Fort McMurray, about 90,000 people, was forced to flee nearly two weeks ago as the uncontrolled wildfire raged through some neighborhoods and destroyed about 15 percent of structures.

On Monday, the blaze continued to burn uncontrolled, now covering 285,000 hectares (704,000 acres), officials said. By Monday evening it was moving 30 to 40 meters (98 to 131 feet) every minute and had jumped a critical firebreak north of the city to push into the oil sand camp areas.   Continued...