Tens of thousands of residents in and around Fort McMurray, home to Canada’s oil sands, had to be evacuated last week as the fire razed homes and businesses.
Several oil companies also had to close operations, including Syncrude and Suncor. And oil production levels dropped to 50 percent, down about 1 million barrels a day, CTV television news reported.
But while the city is now considered safe from the blaze, Alberta Premiere Rachel Notley said it is still not safe for residents to return because many homes have no water or electrical power.
She told reporters that officials hope to “provide a schedule for return within two weeks.”
Meanwhile, the fire that began a week ago, rages on, having consumed about 566,000 acres. It has been fed by another wildfire, but firefighters have benefited from a change in weather – lower temperatures and increased humidity.
“The cold front has brought a lot of precipitation to a lot of the province, which significantly reduced the fire danger,” Wildfire Information Officer Matthew Anderson told CTV. “The strategy and the tactics remain the same, but it means that the suppression efforts are much more effective.”
The fire is now headed eastward, away from Fort McMurray toward the border with the Province of Saskatchewan, he said.
But the devastation caused by the fire, considered the largest natural disaster in Canadian history, remain.
Besides the evacuation of more than 80,000 people, 2,400 homes and other structures were destroyed, while about 25,000 buildings were saved.
During a tour Monday with journalists, Fort McMurray’s mayor and city planners, Notley said while the damage is significant, nearly 90 percent of the city’s structures are intact.
“The city was surrounded by an ocean of fire only a few days ago,” she said at a press conference. “But Fort McMurray and the surrounding communities have been saved. And they will be rebuilt.”
At its peak, more than 1,100 firefighters battled the blaze dubbed ‘The Beast.”