Devastating Fort McMurray fire threatens an already fragile economy

CCTV News

FORT MCMURRAY, AB - MAY 05: Drivers wait for clearance to take firefighting supplies into town on May 05, 2016 outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Wildfires, which are still burning out of control, have forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 residents from the town.   Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP FORT MCMURRAY, AB – MAY 05: Drivers wait for clearance to take firefighting supplies into town on May 05, 2016 outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Wildfires, which are still burning out of control, have forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 residents from the town. Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

A huge operation is underway to lift tens of thousands of people out of the path of the huge wildfire in northern Alberta, Canada. The blaze has grown enormously in recent days and although the government insists it can cope, there’s concern recent economic cutbacks to fire prevention were badly timed.

CCTV America’s Owen Fairclough has more.

Devestating Fort McMurray fire threatens an already fragile economy

Devestating Fort McMurray fire threatens an already fragile economy

Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the fire, but last year's recession and a fragile economic outlook have played their part: the regional government cut wildfire prevention funding just weeks before this disaster.

The fire sweeping across a remote part of Canada’s Alberta region has forced more than 80,000 people to flee. In some places, the exodus is a crawl.

Work camps that usually house those pumping oil from nearby tar sands reserves have now emergency shelters.

Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the fire. But last year’s recession and a fragile economic outlook have played their part: the regional government cut wildfire prevention funding just weeks before this disaster.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists authorities can cope.

“Our government has met all of the Alberta government’s requests for assistance, including providing air assets and 7,000 cots for evacuees in emergency shelters with 13,000 more on the way,” Trudeau said. “We continue to monitor the situation closely with high temperatures and shifting winds changing rapidly and we continue to urge caution to all evacuees.”

Even so, as one of the world’s biggest oil producers, Canada has been hit hard by the collapse in prices. And the Alberta fire has shut down a third of the country’s output – though ironically, analysts think this squeeze contributed to a brief oil price rally this week.

For now, authorities remain focused on trying to extinguish this fire. They say the only hope is the weather forecast, which calls for rain this weekend.