TORONTO, May 16 (Reuters) – The western Canadian city of Calgary received a special weather alert on Tuesday, warning residents of poor air quality and reduced visibility as tinder-dry weather and shifting winds increased the risk of wildfires spreading in the oil-producing regions. province of Alberta.
About 90 wildfires are active in Alberta, with 23 out of control, according to the provincial government, forcing about 20,000 people from their homes. At one point, the fires forced oil and gas producers to shut down at least 319,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, or 3.7% of national production.
On Tuesday morning, Calgary-based Crescent Point Energy ( CPG.TO ) said it was shutting down its Kaybob Duvernay production, affecting 45,000 boe/d, as a precaution due to changing wildfire conditions. Benchmark Canadian heavy crude prices have risen to their highest levels in months on concerns about the wildfires.
A cold front with northwesterly winds but little rain was likely Tuesday, according to Environment Canada’s weather department.
The change in wind direction can pose a problem for firefighters because the path of fires suddenly changes, said Christie Tucker, spokeswoman for the Alberta Wildfire Agency.
Evacuation orders and alerts have also been issued in the neighboring province of British Columbia, where about 60 wildfires are active.
“The arrival of sustained winds from the north has resulted in aggressive fire behavior on all wildfires in the North Peace Region,” the BC Wildfire Service said late Monday.
Further west, the warm weather is causing rapid snowmelt that has increased river flows and prompted authorities to issue a flood warning for part of the Skeena region of interior British Columbia.
The Canadian military and firefighters from across Canada and the United States are helping to fight the flames.
“We want to build better,” said Judy Levesque, 50, who lost her Drayton Valley, Alberta, house in the wildfires, fighting back tears. “We were planning to renovate, so now we can do it faster.”
“That’s the attitude we have to have because it’s too sad the other way.”
Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by David Gregorio
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