OTTAWA, May 13 (Reuters) – Canada’s main oil-producing province of Alberta is bracing for another hot and dry weekend, with warnings of more intense wildfires after a week of volatile weather forced thousands to evacuate homes and shuttered energy production.
Special alerts have been declared across western Canada, where officials have urged vigilance as temperatures in some areas are forecast to hit 30° Celsius (86°F), or 10 to 15 degrees more than usual.
“We are expecting hot and dry conditions in most of the province, which will make the wildfire danger climb,” Alberta Wildfire official Josee St-Onge told a briefing on Friday.
“We’re likely to see more intense wildfire activity this weekend and into early next week.”
More than 100 wildfires over the past 1-1/2 weeks forced about 30,000 people to leave home at one point, while oil and gas producers had to shut in at least 319,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), or 3.7% of national production.
Recent cooling and rain helped firefighters tackle some blazes and restored most of the energy production, but expectations of rising weekend temperatures have fanned concerns of more production cuts and evacuations.
By Friday afternoon, 74 fires were burning across Alberta, 20 considered to be out of control, with about 16,500 evacuees.
“We remain in an extremely volatile situation and the risk of new wildfires remains significant in much of the province,” said Colin Blair, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
“It will take much more than a few scattered showers to change the wildfire situation,” Blair said at the briefing.
The Canadian army is helping with firefighting and recovery efforts in the province, where a state of emergency has been called since last Saturday.
More than 200 soldiers were deployed after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government approved a request for federal assistance on Thursday, with about 100 more expected to join them over the weekend.
Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
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