Suncor Energy resumes operations near Fort McMurray after mandatory evacuation lifted

Suncor Energy will resume operations near Fort McMurray two weeks after an approaching wildfire forced its workers to evacuate its camps.

Initial operations started at Firebag in situ facility

The Fort McMurray wildfire, still out of control, is estimated to cover more than 580,663 hectares in Alberta and Saskatchewan. (Phoenix Heli-Flight)

Suncor Energy will resume operations near Fort McMurray two weeks after an approaching wildfire forced workers to evacuate its camps.

"The safe and staged restart" started early last week at the company's Firebag facility, around 120 km northeast of Fort McMurray, Suncor said in a media release on Sunday.

Around 8,000 workers from oilsands camps north of Fort McMurray were evacuated on May 16, when heavy smoke and flames from the out-of-control wildfire came dangerously close.

That mandatory evacuation order was lifted on May 23, but workers were not allowed to return until fire and health inspections were completed.

Suncor said Alberta Health Services approved their lodges for occupancy on May 27.

Efforts to reopen are also underway at their Base Plant and MacKay River facilities, and the company expects production to resume by the end of the week.

Around 4,000 employees have moved back to the company's camps surrounding Fort McMurray, and they expect 3,500 more people to arrive in the coming week.

Suncor says there has been no damage to their properties and all of their sites have enhanced fire protection in place.

Wildfire remains out of control

Suncor is Canada's largest oilsands company. Syncrude, one of the other major oilsands companies operating in the Fort McMurray area, is also in the process of returning to operation.

Suncor said they will continue to work with the province and industry to monitor the wildfire situation and air quality in the area.

Latest information from the province shows the wildfire that destroyed part of Fort McMurray continues to burn out of control and covers almost 580,000 hectares.

Around 2,300 firefighters are currently battling the wildfire. Firefighting conditions were expected to improve over the weekend due to higher humidity and a potential for rain.