Wildfires in Canadian oil-producing province increase over weekend

Robert Tuttle and Natalie Obiko Pearson, Bloomberg May 15, 2023

(Bloomberg) – The number of wildfires rose in Canada’s main oil-producing province over the weekend as a heat wave brought hot, dry conditions, prompting officials to warn of more blazes to come.

As of Sunday afternoon, there were 87 active fires in the province with 24 considered out of control, up from 21 the previous day.

“The fire danger is extreme,” Josee St-Onge, spokeswoman for Wildfire Alberta, said at a news conference Sunday. “Our peak burning period — which is when the temperatures are at their highest and the fuels are at their driest — is still in front of us.”

Extreme heat warnings were in effect across much of the province. Temperatures in Manning, a town in the province’s north, surged to 30.9C (87F) on Sunday — some 14 degrees above normal for this time of the year, according to data from Environment Canada.

“Hot and dry conditions throughout much of Alberta present an ever-increasing risk of new wildfires starting and the potential for current wildfires to grow quickly,” said Colin Blair, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

More than 1,500 people were fighting fires on Sunday, while helicopters were deployed to drop buckets of water on hotspots. An additional 200 firefighters had arrived from the U.S., St-Onge said. More than 19,0000 residents had been evacuated.

In 2016, wildfires tore through Aberta’s oil sands, shutting down more than 1 MMbbl of daily crude production and razing whole sections of Fort McMurray, the biggest city in the oil-sands region. This month’s blazes have largely spared the oil sands, but they’ve hammered the province’s drought-stricken west, forcing the evacuation of as many as 30,000 people and curtailing natural gas production.

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