While wildfire evacuees wait anxiously to be allowed to return to their homes, 300 ATCO staff are going non-stop to restore power and gas service. The company’s president and CEO says it’s impossible to say how soon evacuees will be able to go home. Seigfried Keifer says 75% of homee could have their power turned on now, but it wouldn’t be safe. “We won’t turn power to many of the regions until inspections are complete. Obviously, you don’t want to–if there’s any residual gas or any kind of explosion potential–give an ignition source to a region. And you don’t necessarily want to energy too long before you reoccupy so that you can utilize the energy.”
Although Premier Rachel Notley said evacuees might be able to go home in two weeks, Keifer says he’s not so sure. “That would be speculating on my part, in terms of the government’s plans. But I do believe there will be the necessities to sustain life coming into place fairly quickly here. Then it will be a matter of organizing which parts of the city can come back at what phases.”
Natural gas was shut down outside of Fort McMurray to minimize the risk.
Kiefer says restoring the utilities is slow and dangerous work.