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Steam generators at Cenovus's Foster Creek project in northern Alberta.Hand-out

Energy companies shut down two major oil sands projects and evacuated hundreds of workers as a wildfire spread quickly across military training lands in northeastern Alberta, threatening the operations and the main road leading to them.

Cenovus Energy Inc. airlifted the last of 1,700 workers from its Foster Creek oil-sands development and nearby natural-gas property late Saturday, and shut off production at the 135,000-barrel-a-day site, located south of Fort McMurray, Alta., spokeswoman Rhona DelFrari said.

Foster Creek is on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. It is the second-largest of the company's production projects and is operated as a 50-50 joint venture with ConocoPhillips.

Ms. DelFrari said the fire is several kilometres away from Foster Creek, but it cut off road access. It is not known when operations can restart, as the blaze is not under control. The Alberta government said it expanded to 6,000 hectares on Sunday, a 50-per-cent increase in about 24 hours.

"We remain completely shut down," Ms. DelFrari said.

Meanwhile, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. said it had shut off about 80,000 barrels a day of oil production at its Primrose oil-sands site and evacuated an undisclosed number of staff.

"Once safe access to the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range is permitted, Canadian Natural will assess our operations and determine next steps accordingly," a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

The projects shut down represent more than 7 per cent of Alberta's total oil production.

Despite efforts of 170 firefighters using air tankers, helicopters and earth-moving equipment, the blaze has expanded amid hot, dry conditions, the government said. More than three dozen firefighters arrived from Ontario on Sunday to help bring it under control.

On Friday, a firefighting aircraft being used to battle the inferno crashed into the air weapons range, killing the 38-year-old pilot.

New Alberta Premier Rachel Notley offered sympathy to the pilot's family and friends, and expressed gratitude to those who fight wildfires. Ms. Notley also urged residents to obey fire bans that have been imposed in numerous regions of the province.