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Canadian oil sands forced to evacuate as Fort McMurray fire continues to rage

Crews continue to battle the raging Fort McMurray fire in Canada, which has shifted northward and is threatening nearby oil sands.

The Fort McMurray fire began on Sunday, May 1, and rapidly grew in size and strength, forcing the entire town to flee for safety.

According to The Globe and Mail, the fire has since burned over 500,000 hectares (1,931 square miles) and has crossed into Saskatchewan. In comparison, Prince Edward Island is a little over 560,000 hectares (2,162 square miles).

After losing some intensity during the second week of May, the fire strengthened and spread farther north this past week.

According to CBC News, the rapid fire growth forced shut downs and/or evacuations of 19 oil facilities.

The Globe and Mail reported that nearly 10,000 workers were evacuated from the Suncor and Syncrude oil sands sites, two of Canada's largest oil operations.

Most workers will not be allowed to return to the sites until wildfire conditions improve.

A few sites are continuing operations on a limited basis.

The halt in production has dealt a devastating blow to Canada's oil industry and will likely have a ripple effect worldwide.

Since the evacuations, Canada's oil output has been cut by nearly a million barrels per day, according to ABS News Australia.

Relief may be in store for the fire-ravaged area into the start of the new week.

A storm will spread clouds, cooler temperatures and much-needed moisture over the region this weekend.

"Indications are that significant rain (10-20 mm) will fall late Sunday into early Monday morning as the storm lifts northeastward towards Fort McMurray," AccuWeather Canadian Weather Expert Brett Anderson explained.

He added that this rainfall should help slow the advancement of the fire.

While the relief will only be temporary, any bit of rain will help firefighters gain ground on the fire.

Fort McMurray faces a long road to recovery and latest indications are that Mother Nature may not aid in the relief efforts this summer.

"Unfortunately, the summer is expected to be very warm and drier compared to normal," Anderson stated. "Thus, some of the larger fires may continue to burn through the entire season."

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