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Canada’s oil sands hub threatened by wildfire, sparking large evacuations

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In 2016, a huge wildfire in Fort McMurray forced the evacuation of 90,000 residents and shut in more than a million barrels per day of oil output.

People in other parts of Fort McMurray not under the evacuation order are also starting to leave, said resident Elsie Knister, as she prepared to depart her downtown neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon.

“People aren’t waiting for an order, they’re just going already,” Knister, who also evacuated in 2016, said in a phone interview.

“I feel sunk. I’m 71 and I don’t want to go through this again, it’s horrible.”

Officials said Fort McMurray is better prepared to fight the fire than it was in 2016. Much of the boreal forest surrounding the city burned in the 2016 fire, meaning there is less fuel available for the blaze now.

“This fire activity is very different than (in) 2016 … We have an abundance of resources and we are well positioned to respond to this situation,” said regional fire chief Jody Butz.

He said evacuees were encouraged to leave Fort McMurray but could remain in other neighborhoods in the city if they wished.

The city has 250 to 300 firefighters available to help protect structures, Butz added.

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