Situated in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray is a city with a population of 66,573 and is a major hub for the oil industry. Other sectors that are well-developed include infrastructure, forestry, and tourism.
Oil production is the key industry in the area because of its strategic location close to the Athabasca Oil Sands. Companies that have operations here include Nexen, Shell, CNRL, Suncor Energy, and Syncrude. Professionals with an oil and gas industry background are in high demand, including extraction project managers, procurement coordinators, field managers, chemists, land use officers, heavy equipment technicians, and more.
Major companies hold timber rights in the area, including Millar Western Forest Products and Alberta Pacific Forest. Millar Western specializes in pulp and lumber and exports lumber to the U.S. and Asia. The company produces different grades of pulp that are used to make toweling, tissue, specialty papers, paperboard, and writing and fine printing papers. The Alberta Pacific Forest Industries specializes in integrated landscape management, research and monitoring, forest planning, pulp finishing, etc. Northland Forest Products also operates in Wood Buffalo and has 150 seasonal and 55 full-time employees. The company produces kiln-dried walnut timber and thermally-modified wood such as red oak, soft and hard maple, yellow birch, white ash, yellow poplar, and white oak.
Infrastructural development is also key to Fort McMurray’s economy in light of the fact that there are some 120 projects underway. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray Regional Airport Authority, and Alberta Transportation are involved in major projects with a focus on road rehabilitation, water treatment, and airport expansion. The cost of infrastructure projects is estimated at $128 billion.
Companies across industry sectors operate in Fort McMurray, including sectors such as fishing, agriculture, professional and business services, automotive, construction and renovation, and others. A number of companies specialize in contraction and renovation, including Ripley Construction, Bouchier Site Services, CLH Contracting, and others. In addition to equipment hauling, construction companies specialize in excavation, heavy hauling, lowbed movies, and hydroseeding. They also offer oilfield transportation services, bridge and ice road construction, and freight and gravel hauling. Automotive companies include car dealers such as Legacy Dodge, Driving Force, and Alberta Motor Products. Auto painting and repair shops and used and new auto parts suppliers operate in the area as well. There are also companies that specialize in packaging and shipping, copywriting and publishing, accessories and apparel, and more.
There are plenty of attractions in the area, among which the MacDonald Island Park, Oil Sands Discovery Centre, Fort McMurray Marine Park Museum, and others. The Oil Sands Discovery Centre features a number of exhibits, demonstrations, and attractions to allow visitors to learn more about the technology, history, and science behind the oil sands. They also learn about extraction processes, mining, geology, and the development of oil sands. The Vista Ridge All Seasons Park is a recreational park that features a tube park, terrain park, beginners area, and 8 trails. The Aerial Adventure Park is open during the summer and features multi-level platforms with obstacles that swing, jump, and zip. The Vista Ridge Park also houses a skate park and a mini-golf course. The Gregoire Lake Provincial Park offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including ice fishing, wind surfing, sailing, and camping. Other outdoor activities include water skiing, power boating, kayaking and canoeing, swimming, and geocaching. Other attractions in the area are the Borealis Park, Syncrude Athletic Park, and Eagle Ridge.
The wildfire began in May, 2016 and quickly spread to a number of neighborhoods and communities, including Gregoire Lake Estates, Anzac, Fort McMurray First Nation, and Prairie Creek. Many communities suffered serious losses, and evacuations were ordered.
The total insured damage that was caused by the fire stands at $3.58 billion. In comparison, the 1998 ice storm in Quebec resulted in $2.2 billion in claims and the 2013 floods in Alberta – in $1.9 billion. The cost of rebuilding infrastructure and structures, together with lost royalties, profits, and income is estimated at $9.9 billion, making it the most expensive state of emergency in the history of Canada.
Personal property claims in the amount of $2.4 billion were made, including 12,000 freezers and fridges claims and 12,000 vehicle claims. A total of 45,000 commercial and personal claims were filed to cover the cost of rebuilding and repairing residential homes and other buildings.
Some 2,400 buildings and residential homes were destroyed as a result of the wildfire, and 90,000 residents were evacuated. Of them, 1,600 residential buildings were completely destroyed. A year after the wildfire, only 30 percent of the residential homes were rebuilt, and many residents were forced to resort to debt financing to rebuild their homes (see here: https://www.lifeoncredit.ca/top-12-best-credit-cards-in-canada-for-2018/). In the view of Professor Rafat Elam, teaching Economics at the MacEwan University, many of the residents who suffered loss also went through serious depression. According to his estimates, the cost of mental healthcare stands at $2.27 billion. Direct costs such as the costs for rehabilitation of residents and firefighters, the costs for evacuating homes, and others should also be factored in. Elam points to the fact that there are indirect costs such as environmental damage, and it can take a decade to get an accurate picture of the true scope and scale of the disaster and how much it costs.
What is more, insurance companies are likely to offer higher insurance rates in the future. Experts expect that premium increases will be in the range of $2 - $50 a month. New regulations are likely to be developed and implemented by insurance providers with regard to the construction materials that can be used for siding and roofing. For many residents, the most traumatic experience has been to lose their homes, personal items, and valuables within hours (see here: https://www.lifeoncredit.ca/top-6-credit-cards-for-bad-credit-in-canada/).
When a state of emergency was declared, some of the largest oil producing businesses were forced to limit or temporarily discontinue operations, resulting in heavy losses. Oil production losses amount to 1.2 million barrels on a daily basis or $985 million within a period of 14 days. The GDP of Alberta decreased by 0.33 percent as a result of this. Small and mid-range businesses were also forced to shut down during the wildfire and suffered financial losses. Experts point to the fact that businesses will require additional capital in the form of business and commercial loans to keep going, and growing debt may result in bankruptcies and insolvencies.
Developing best practices and adequate fire safety and prevention policies is essential in light of the fact that wildfires are expected to increase in number as a result of climate change and global warming.
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