Smoke and flames from the wildfires erupt behind a car on the highway near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, 7 May 2016. Photo: Mark Blinch / REUTERS

EDMONTON, Alberta, 31 May 2016 (AP) – A phased return of more than 80,000 residents of the fire-damaged oil sands city Fort McMurray will begin Wednesday as planned, Alberta's premier announced Tuesday.

Rachel Notley said that the wildfire is no longer an imminent threat to the city and critical infrastructure has been repaired. The massive wildfire destroyed about 2,400 structures almost a month ago in Fort McMurray but 90 percent of the city remains intact. Residents of three neighborhoods won't be able to return because of environmental concerns.

A boil water advisory remains in effect and many businesses will not be open. Notley urged residents to bring food, water and any other supplies needed for the next two weeks. […]

The fire and mass evacuation forced a quarter or more of Canada's oil output offline. Canada's central bank said last week the Canadian economy will shrink in the second quarter because of the wildfire.

The Alberta oil sands have the third-largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Its workers largely live in Fort McMurray, a former frontier outpost-turned-city whose residents come from all over Canada. […]

Jim Mandeville, senior project manager with FirstOnSite Restoration, has been in Fort McMurray since May 8 to help critical businesses such as banks, grocery stores and pharmacies get running again. […]

"When they say to bring 14 days worth of food and water, they mean it. And when they say people with respiratory conditions shouldn't come up here, they mean it -- and they have a really good reason why," he said. "It is not a clean, safe, normal environment that you're walking into." [more]

Homecoming begins for residents of fire-ravaged Canadian city



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