Lightning was expected to spark new blazes overnight and thousands of people remain under evacuation, officials said Tuesday, as hot and dry conditions feed dozens of wildfires across Alberta, including one burning out of control near Cold Lake oil and gas sites. The number of wildfires in the province jumped to 65 Tuesday as weeks of dry conditions combined with lightning strikes placed most of the province under high to extreme fire threat. Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier, sworn in only 48 hours earlier, said Tuesday he has been receiving daily briefings as the wildfire threat unfolds. By late afternoon, 20 wildfires were considered out of control, including a 10,000-hectare fire burning about 40 kilometres northwest of Cold Lake, said wildfire information officer Geoffrey Driscoll. The evacuation order for the area along the Old Smith Highway was lifted after provincial officials classified the wildfire threatening the area as being held.

Meanwhile, thousands of energy company workers have been forced to leave their work sites because of the threat posed by the wildfires. Statoil Canada is voluntarily removing non-essential staff from its Leismer project south of Fort McMurray. Wildfire information officer Janelle Lane said the number of fires this year is up substantially — about 150 more than the five-year average. OTTAWA, Canada - Nearly 7,000 people in Canada's Alberta province have been evacuated from the path of wildfires which threaten to ravage homes and businesses, including oil refineries in the region, officials said Tuesday. More than 1,600 firefighters are battling the 70 wildfires, 55 of which were sparked by lightning on Sunday.

Some 2,000 workers were evacuated from Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Limited oil facilities in the Cold Lake region, as a fire 10,000 hectares in size threatened to cut off the only access roads. Thousands of people in Canada have fled their homes as hundreds of wildfires burn across the country, sending thick smoke as far south as the US state of Colorado. More than 13,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, MP Rob Clarke said on Thursday.

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