Category Archives: Alberta Canada

CBC NEWS: Fort McMurray fire spreads north and east, destroys some oilsands facilities

Repost from CBC News, Edmonton
[Editor: For latest updates, see The Fort McMurray fire: What’s happening now, and what you’ve missed, the Globe and Mail.  – RS]

Fort McMurray fire grows to 423,000 hectares, continues to threaten oilsands sites

Wildfire stalls near Saskatchewan border but continues spread north to oilsands facilities
May 18, 2016 9:08 AM MT Last Updated: May 18, 2016 1:20 PM MT
An aerial view of the flames roaring north of Fort McMurray on Tuesday afternoon.
An aerial view of the flames roaring north of Fort McMurray on Tuesday afternoon. (Phoenix Heli-Flight)

The Fort McMurray wildfire in northern Alberta is carving a new path of destruction, destroying an oilsands camp while racing eastward toward more industry sites.

The fire, which has become known as “the beast,” has grown by a staggering 57,000 hectares [220 square miles] in the last 24 hours, consuming 423,000 [1633 square miles] hectares of boreal forest as of Wednesday morning.

Wildfire information officer Travis Fairweather attributes the “pretty significant” growth to “extreme fire conditions.”

“It’s really being burning intensely and the winds have been carrying it,” he said Wednesday.

The fire forced 8,000 non-essential workers to flee the area Monday night, and a mandatory evacuation order remains in place for all work camps north of the city.

The majority were sent by ground to work camps near Fort MacKay, about 53 kilometres [33 miles] to the north. But some were also bused, or later flown, south to Edmonton and Calgary.

By Tuesday morning, the flames had made their way to the Blacksand Executive Lodge, which provides accommodations to hundreds of workers in the area.

The building’s sprinkler system was no match for the raging inferno, and all 665 units of the building were consumed by the fire.

 Noralta Buffalo Lodge
Workers evacuate the Noralta Buffalo Lodge, 26 kilometres northwest of Fort McMurray, late Monday afternoon. (Justin Bourke)

Within hours, the flames had spread east, threatening the Noralta Lodge Fort McMurray Village, a facility that can house more than 3,000 people, and Horizon North’s Birch Mountain, a 540-unit facility.

Noralta officials took to social media Tuesday night to say the fire had been held back, but the site was still at risk and crews would be working through the night to protect the facility.

Six kilometres [3.7 miles] away from the Blacksand Lodge, the Birch Mountain Lodge, also owned by Horizon North, remains in the path of the fire.

“We’ve got eight camps in a perimeter around Fort McMurray, out of seven which have been evacuated,” Rod Graham, president and CEO of Horizon North, told CBC News on Wednesday.

“We have not sent any of our people into harm’s way, but from unconfirmed reports we’ve had, our Birch property is still standing.”

The wind was also expected to push the fire towards the Suncor and Syncrude oilsands facilities, but the province said both are highly resilient to fire.

Each site is surrounded by wide barriers of cleared firebreak and gravel and are guarded by their own firefighting crews. However, only essential personnel remain at both plants.

Crews in the area continue to work around the clock to douse the flames and create firebreaks around critical infrastructure, but the fire has become increasingly volatile amid high winds and tinder-dry conditions.

“Over the last 48 hours it has certainly grown significantly, particularly along the eastern edge, growing toward the Saskatchewan border, but also growing north toward the oilsands facilities,” said Bruce Macnab, with the Northern Forestry Centre in Edmonton.

“In these kind of conditions, the fire crews will be doing their best to fight the sides of the fire when conditions allow, but that’s very much weather dependent.”

By noon Wednesday, the eastern front of the fire appeared to be stalled about five kilometres [3 miles] from the Saskatchewan border. The government there has established a wildfire base camp in the small community of Buffalo Narrows to use air tankers and helicopters along the eastern edge of the massive fire.

But Duane McKay, Saskatchewan’s commissioner of emergency and fire safety, said smoke is the biggest concern for residents of the nearest community, La Loche, which is about 20 kilometres [12.4 miles] from the border.

The fire itself poses no current threat to the town or any other Saskatchewan communities, McKay said.

He said the wind is expected to shift directions later today and could blow the fire back on itself.

“We don’t anticipate it crossing the border in the near future,” he said. But he cautioned that the fire “obviously has a mind of its own in terms of where it wants to go.”

fire map
A map from Natural Resources Canada shows the extent of the Fort McMurray wildfire fire as of May 17. (Natural Resources Canada)
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BLOOMBERG: Alberta Wildfire Risk Seen Biggest for Storage Tanks, Equipment (map)

Repost from Bloomberg

Alberta Wildfire Risk Seen Biggest for Storage Tanks, Equipment

Alex Nussbaum, May 6, 2016 — 2:25 PM PDT
  • Blaze reaches gates of Cnooc’s Long Lake, official says
  • Oil sands unlikely to burn but equipment, chemicals at risk

“It seals itself off,” he said in a telephone interview. “You can find records of natural wildfires in these deposits for centuries and none of them have produced a situation where you have an extended fire.”

Royal Bank of Canada estimated that as much as 1 million barrels a day of production was shut because of the blaze, or about 40 percent of oil sands output, as companies including Suncor Energy Inc., Cnooc’s Nexen, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and ConocoPhillips reduce production and open work camps to residents escaping blazes in Alberta’s biggest-ever evacuation. Inter Pipeline Ltd. shut part of its system in the province. The disruptions pushed up the price of oil sands crude.

“Eighty percent of the oil sands are located deep underground and can only be extracted through an in-situ drilling process,” Chelsie Klassen, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said in an e-mail on Thursday. “The remaining 20 percent is mineable from the surface and predominantly located north of Fort McMurray. Hydrocarbons can burn under the right conditions, however oil sands would burn at a much slower pace considering its composition with sand.”

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FORT MCMURRAY: Latest on the Alberta wildfires and tar sands mining

By Roger Straw, April 8, 2016

I’ve had my eyes on Alberta Canada since June of 2013, when I first learned about the terrible destruction of pristine boreal forests and native communities in Alberta caused by the mining of tar-sands for crude oil production. Those operations are concentrated in the Fort McMurray area, so my interest and concern peaked recently when reports surfaced about the massive wildfires there.

Most, but not all of the mining operations are north of Fort McMurray, and most, but not all of the worst fires are in and to the south of Fort McMurray.  But the fires and the oil mines are intimately linked.  Here’s are several of the latest reports (thanks to Google):

Fort McMurray fire has been raging for over a week

CBC.ca6 hours ago
It’s been one week since the fire known as “the beast” reared it’s ugly head. The wildfire outside of Fort McMurray, once measured in football fields, now sits at …

Fort McMurray Fire Could Last Months: Officials

Huffington Post Canada17 hours ago

Man watches on CCTV as Fort McMurray fire devastates his home …

Yahoo7 News17 hours ago

Wildfire at Fort McMurray quickly overtakes Canada’s environmental …

In-DepthLos Angeles Times5 hours ago

Fire continues to grow, expected to reach Saskatchewan border

InternationalThe Globe and Mail2 hours ago

Fort McMurray Wildfire: Evacuees Relocated as ‘Absolutely Vicious …

In-DepthNBCNews.com22 hours ago

Fires in Canada’s Oil-Sands Region Grow

Wall Street Journal20 hours ago
More than 500 firefighters, 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers are trying to put out the fires in Fort McMurray, which grew by nearly 50% in the past day to now …

Canada Fire Disrupts, But Doesn’t Destroy, Oil Production

teleSUR English9 hours ago

Emergency teams enter evacuated Fort McMurray to rescue the pets …

The Independent1 hour ago

Disasters highlight the need for climate action

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette11 hours ago

A dire warning

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel5 hours ago

The ties that bind Canada together visible in Fort Mac

InternationalThe Guardian Charlottetown21 hours ago

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For safe and healthy communities…