ALBERTA

Alberta Wildfire 2015: Crews Working To Protect Oilsands Projects

05/28/2015 05:34 EDT | Updated 05/28/2016 05:59 EDT
EDMONTON - Cooler weather was helping crews in Alberta battle wildfires Thursday as the province shifted more effort to protecting oilsands projects in the northeast.

Scott Long, a government spokesman, said fireguards built to shield facilities operated by Cenovus Energy and Canadian Natural Resources were holding.

Long said the fire in the Cold Lake region had grown to 200-square kilometres in size, with flames about 40 kilometres north of the community.

"Right now the biggest, most significant fire remains Cold Lake, and that is where the weight of efforts from the wildfire organization is right now in terms of personnel and resources," he said.

"Clearly the oil and gas critical infrastructure is part of that."

Earlier this week, Cenovus (TSX:CVE) and CNRL (TSX:CNQ) shut down these projects as a safety precaution, sending about 2,000 workers home.

The fire was about 20 kilometres away from the Cenovus facility and about five kilometres away from the CNRL project.

Long said the province was dealing with 42 wildfires Thursday, including 10 that were out of control.

There were no new evacuations and about 4,800 people forced from Wabasca and rural communities in north-central Alberta earlier this week had returned home.

He said the wildfire outlook remains severe, at least for the next few days.

Alberta was calling in 150 reinforcements from British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Parks Canada. This is in addition to 130 firefighters brought in since last Friday.

The province has about 1,700 firefighters, 180 helicopters and 28 airtankers positioned across the province to fight wildfires.

Long said overall the situation was improving, with more cool temperatures and possibly some rain in the forecast.

But he warned that Mother Nature can be fickle.

"For the next few days that weather will help our firefighters and other professionals on the ground to grab some of those wildfires and get them contained and under control," he said.

"I'm optimistic, but a lot of this depends on the weather. One lightning storm can certainly cause some strikes that could flare the situation up again."

A fire ban remains in effect across Alberta.

Also on HuffPost

Alberta Wildfires 2015