There’s a steady stream of traffic on Highway 63 north through Fort McMurray now that oilsands companies have the go ahead to resume operations. Following a meeting between oil industry executives and the premier yesterday, supplies and equipment along with essential employees started heading north through RCMP checkpoints to get back to work.
Premier Rachel Notley said oilsands production should resume within days or weeks, depending on the facility.
Veronique Brouillard is nervous but happy to be heading back to work. She’s one of the first people allowed to head from the south side of Fort McMurray to the north side, says she’s nervous but happy to get back to work. “I just drove from Edmonton. I need to go back. I’m working on the oilsands and they need me there because with the essential services. My house is still up, so I need to get my stuff to work and I’m going back to the oilsands to work.”
Cory Geernaert was pleased to be heading back to work at Syncrude last night. “We’ve been here since Day One as a crew. We’ve been evacuated a couple of times. Ya. We’ve been one of the very few to keep working, manning water trucks and hot spots and what not. But to get the industry back up is going to be really important.” Geernaert says some oilsands employees with Class 3 licences helped by driving water trucks, but it was too much for some. “We’ve had guys driving water trucks here that…went through some experiences that they couldn’t go back. That’s how bad it scared them. They’re just going home, both sides of the highway in flames, and they’re driving through it as fast as they can and it scared them.”
— RMWB (@RMWoodBuffalo) May 11, 2016
Regional Fire Chief Darby Allen posted another short, but encouraging video on Twitter last night. Allen said firefighters have the fire beaten within the city of Fort McMurray itself. He warned that it will still be some time before residents will be allowed to return. That’s frustrating for evacuees like Kevin Lewis who says he doesn’t like hearing he’ll have to wait two weeks before knowning when he can go home. “There’s obviously power lines down. I know the water’s not drinkable right now. They have to reroute the gas lines and that from the areas that were affected the worst, so there’s no chance of any leaks. So I mean I understand the waiting game. It’s just being in the unknown zone.”
Mounties have seized some firearms in the Fort McMurray area, but there will be no mass seizure as happened in High River during the 2013 flood. Sergeant John Spaans says one or two guns were found in public place and those have been seized. Officers will not be going into people’s homes looking for more.
The RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission found the Mounties exceeded their authority when they seized guns that were properly secured inside High River homes.
The Fort McMurray fire is the only one of 25 wildfires in the province that’s out of control. There are 700 firefighters, 26 helicopters, 13 air tankers available and 46 pieces of heavy equipment units working on the blaze. The wildfire is approximately 25 to 30 kilometres from the Saskatchewan boundary.