05/04/2016 01:02 EDT | Updated 05/04/2016 02:56 EDT

Fort McMurray Fire: Shell Turns Oilsands Camp Into Shelter For Evacuees

CALGARY — The wildfire raging through the heart of Canada's oilsands capital dealt a blow Wednesday to crude operations, with Shell Canada closing a major mining facility north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

The company temporarily shut down production at its Albian Sands mining operations located about 70 kilometres north of the city.

Shell said it made the decision to focus on getting employees and their families out of the region while also freeing up room at its 2,000-person work camp for some of the 80,000 people who were ordered evacuated Tuesday from Fort McMurray.

"Right now, our priority is providing support for our people, their loved ones and others in the area,'' Shell spokesman Cameron Yost said in an email.

"Our work camp, the Albian Village, is now open to all evacuated Fort McMurray residents who need a safe place to stay and we are evacuating non-essential staff to make room for those who need it most.''

fort mcmurray

Fort McMurray has been evacuated as a dangerous wildfire rages through the city. (Photo: Greg Halinda/CP)

Shell is employing its landing strip to fly employees and their families to Calgary or Edmonton and has provided two teams to support firefighting efforts in the region.

Its two mines at Albian Sands have the capacity to produce 255,000 barrels of oil per day.

Suncor Energy said it has reduced production and staffing levels at the Millennium and North Steepbank mines, its main oilsands project just north of Fort McMurray. It said the facility is not in immediate danger from the fire.

"Right now, our priority is providing support for our people."

"Our facilities are currently well removed from the fires and are not physically threatened, however, we are operating at reduced rates,'' spokesman Paul Newmarch said in an email.

"We have evacuated all non-essential employees and continue to provide employee updates through our Facebook page.''

Most incoming and departing flights at the Fort McMurray International Airport, located southeast of the city centre, were cancelled Wednesday.

Canada's oilsands are considered the third-largest reserves of crude oil in the world, with 166 billion barrels of recoverable oil covering 142,000 square kilometres.

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