Evacuation lifted for oil sites threatened by Canada fires

Montreal - Officials on Sunday (May 22) lifted the evacuation order for several oil production sites north of Fort McMurray, the city threatened by massive Canadian wildfires, but stopped short of allowing production to resume.

The province of Alberta lifted evacuation at facilities belonging to Canadian firms Suncor and Syncrude, although officials Friday said thick smoke still prevented a resumption of most oil production.

Suncor said on its Facebook page that a small number of employees will reach the site on Monday.

The fires, which forced the evacuation of 100,000 residents of Fort McMurray and the oil facilities to the north, interrupted extraction and refining of an estimated 1.2 million barrels of oil per day.

The wildfires remain out of control, covering more than 522,800 hectares (1,291,800 acres), including in the neighboring province of Saskatchewan, the Alberta government reported Sunday.

Falling temperatures and light rain helped efforts by some 1,880 firefighters, 104 helicopters and 29 air tankers to put out the fires.

Regional officials have said that residents can return home beginning June 1 if conditions are favorable.

Cost estimates predict the temporary oil sands production shutdown could cause the Canadian economy to lose up to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product.

The oil sector accounts for four percent of Canada's GDP.