UPDATE 1-Some crude production restarts as cool weather saps Canadian wildfire

Tue May 24, 2016 3:25pm EDT
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(Adds details on operations)

By Eric M. Johnson

CALGARY, Alberta May 24 (Reuters) - Some crude producers restarted operations on Tuesday in Canada's energy heartland as a mass evacuation of the Fort McMurray oil town entered its fourth week, though cool weather and light winds were helping firefighters dampen the blaze.

No oil facilities or communities were in the fire's path as of Tuesday morning as its footprint grew slightly to 523,000 hectares (2,008 square miles) from roughly 522,900 hectares on Monday, Alberta officials said at a news conference.

The blaze was spreading mainly across forested areas to the east on Tuesday as firefighters were working to hold fire breaks around prized oil sands facilities where crews have stripped away tinder-dry trees and vegetation.

Firefighters from the United States and South Africa were expected to join the fight in the next few days, the officials said.

"We have some hot, dry conditions coming this week so we'll really be put to the test here to see how that holds," Alberta Wildfire Compliance and Investigations Manager Chad Morrison said. "We feel fairly confident in the coming days that we'll hold most of the ground there."

No rain has been forecast for Tuesday.

On Monday, authorities lifted evacuation orders for all work camps in the area, a significant step for companies eager to restart production. Workers could return to camps once safety assessments were completed over the next two days.   Continued...