Image courtesy of ESRD Alberta/Youtube.

About 10 percent of Alberta’s oil sands production remained offline Monday as raging wildfires finally began to retreat.

Firefighters have been battling wildfires in the oil rich region for nearly two weeks and have managed to cut the number of active fires down to 35 from 42, Reuters said.

Five fires are still classified as out of control.

The fires have shut in about 233,000 barrels of per day of oil sands production and have prompted companies to evacuate some employees and  halt operations.

The fires forced Cenovus Energy and Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) to evacuate employees from two projects in the Lac la Birche region.

According to Reuters, Alberta officials have downgraded the fire hazard in that region to “moderate” from “extreme.”

CNR has been granted access to its Primrose oil sands project, located near the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, to asses the site, but it has not resumed production.

“A Canadian Natural team of operational staff were permitted access to implement a step-by-step recovery plan, including the inspection of facilities and equipment, and the completion of repairs, if required. Following this assessment, pre-start activities towards resuming full operations will begin,” the company said.

Emergency service officials also gave Cenovus the all clear to return to its nearby Foster Creek site.

A group of Cenovus employees are inspecting the site and are working to resume operations.

“They will inspect the facility, ensure safety and security systems are operational and begin start-up procedures,” the company told Reuters.

Cenovus has not disclosed when it expects Foster Creek to be completely back online.

Cenovus added that a fire near its Narrows Lake site that had forced the evacuation of 90 construction workers last week has been brought under control.

Norway’s Statoil hopes to bring  evacuated non-essential workers back to its 20,000 bpd Leismer oil sands site later this week and said production has not been impacted.

A 3,000 hectare fire near MEG Energy’s Christina Lake project remains out of control, Reuters said.


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