Thousands of Fort McMurray residents are returning home after spending 29 days away because of a wildfire that tore through the community in early May.
An estimated 85,000 residents fled their homes and as many as 15,000 were expected to return Wednesday. Premier Rachel Notley was there to greet them saying residents will need every ounce of the courage they’ve already shown because the ordeal isn’t over yet, as the rebuilding process is just beginning.
“People react differently to stress. The people of Fort McMurray have been profoundly patient, resilient, determined and graceful under tremendous pressure. I think that when they return, over the course of the next few weeks, they need to anticipate that people are going to react to the stress a little bit differently.”
Notley says it will take years to recover from the wildfire that destroyed nearly one-tenth of the city, but promises the province will be there to help.
Mayor Melissa Blake says Fort McMurray is forever grateful for the support shown by people right across Canada.
Fire Chief Darby Allen says his crews should be proud of the job they did in keeping damage to a minimum in Fort McMurray, but adds the job isn’t done, as hotspots will likely be around for “weeks to come.”
— Reid Fiest (@ReidFiest) June 1, 2016
Video from Reid Fiest/Global News at entrance into Fort McMurray
News Talk 770’s Danielle Smith is broadcasting live from Fort McMurray Wednesday and Thursday.
- Conditions have been met for voluntary, phased re-entry beginning June 1, with the exception of the neighbourhoods of Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways.
- We have developed a traffic plan in conjunction with the RCMP and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to ensure a smooth process.
- Information Centres are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Conditions will be assessed daily and, if the situation changes, the re-entry schedule may be adjusted .
Re-entry information for Zone 1:
- Zone 1 includes the Lower Townsite, Anzac, Fort McMurray First Nation #468 and Gregoire Lake Estates.
- **Voluntary, phased re-entry of residents in Zone 1 begins tomorrow morning, Wednesday, June 1. RCMP are expected to remove the barricades at 8 a.m.** (Correction: Barricades removed at 8 a.m., not 6 a.m. as previously stated)
- Informations Centres for Zone 1 are located at:
- Fort McMurray Composite High School, 9803 King Street
- Vista Ridge, 1 Spruce Valley Drive, Saprae Creek
- Anzac Community Hall, 105B-4 Christina Drive, Anzac
Re-entry information for Zones 2, 3 and 4
- Zone 2 begins Thursday June 2 and includes Parsons Creek, Stone Creek, Timberlea, Eagle Ridge and Dickinsfield.
- Information Centres for Zone 2 are located at:
- Holy Trinity High School, 230 Powder Drive
- Eagle Ridge Community Centre, 301 Sparrow Hawk Drive
- Zones 3 and 4 A begin Friday, June 3 and include Thickwood, Wood Buffalo, Gregoire, Prairie Creek and Saprae Creek Estates.
- Information Centre for Zone 3 is located at Westwood High School/YMCA, 221 Tundra Drive
- Information Centre for Zone 4 A is located at Oil Sands Discovery Centre, 515 MacKenzie Boulevard
- Phase 4 B begins Saturday, June 4 for Grayling Terrace and Draper.
- The Information Centre for Zone 4 B is located at Oil Sands Discovery Centre, 515 MacKenzie Boulevard
Information for residents in Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill:
- As a direct result of fire damage to neighbouring premises, homes in Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill cannot be permanently occupied until debris has been removed by the municipality.
- Some individual homes might be structurally sound, but the neighourhoods as a whole are not. There are significant concerns about physical safety and potential exposure to contaminants.
- A tackifier called Posi-Shell is being applied to debris in damaged areas. A tackifier is a powdery substance that dries to a hard shell, which prevents ash and other contaminants from becoming airborne. It is an environmentally safe, non-toxic compound that is commonly used in landfills.
- Plans are being made for residents to visit homes briefly in restricted areas. Details will be posted on rmwb.ca/emergency once completed.
- Evacuee Support Centres have been established in Lac La Biche, Wandering River and Spruce Grove. Evacuees are pre-staging in Wandering River and Lac La Biche in anticipation of re-entry.
- The urgent care facility is running and will remain so throughout the re-entry period, until the hospital is fully operational. It is located in the parking lot of the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre at Keyano College.
- Even though some grocery, hardware and convenience stores opened on the weekend, returning residents should bring basic necessities to last for up to 14 days, including food, drinking water and prescriptions.
- Taxi service is to resume on June 1.
Information for all affected residents:
- The Red Cross is providing financial travel assistance for those who are not receiving it through their insurance or workplace. Additional financial assistance for people returning to Fort McMurray is also available. Contact the Red Cross for details.
- Out-of-province evacuees will receive an email today with detailed instructions on how to apply for wildfire relief funding. Updated information will be online.
- Applications will be accepted at over 600 locations across Canada for out-of-province evacuees between June 1 and June 15.
- Evacuees will need to attend in person with government-issued photo identification and documentation to substantiate their claims and applications.
- A telephone town hall will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. this evening (May 31), June 1 and June 2 for all evacuees.
- For more information on services and updates, please visit the Government of Alberta emergency website at: emergency.alberta.ca.
- AHS has health-care teams at several reception centres and help is also available by calling Health Link toll-free at 811 or the Mental Health Helpline at 1-877-303-2642.
- Alberta Health Services is providing 24/7 basic health services and emergency and urgent care at the Fort McMurray Urgent Care Centre, located at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre (9908 Penhorwood Street).
- A boil-water advisory remains in effect for the area of Fort McMurray, including the Fort McMurray First Nation, Janvier, Saprae Creek, Fort McMurray International Airport, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates, Gregoire Lake Provincial Park and nearby work camps that pull water from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Water Treatment Plant.
- AHS has issued an air-quality advisory for the Fort McMurray area, as well as a precautionary air-quality advisory for Edmonton and communities in the North Zone due to wildfires; residents are advised to take appropriate precautions.
- Real-time air-quality data and information is available at: www.environment.alberta.ca/apps/aqhi/aqhi.aspx.
- The Fort McMurray wildfire remains out of control. It is estimated to cover 581,695 hectares, including the Saskatchewan side, with a new perimeter estimate of 967 kilometres. There was minimal fire growth yesterday.
- Extreme burning conditions still exist for some areas of the fire.
- There are 2,360 firefighters and support staff, 96 helicopters, 279 pieces of heavy equipment battling this fire with a new estimate of 430 kilometres of fire guard completed.
- As of 9 a.m., there were 16 active wildfires in Alberta, with one (Fort McMurray) out of control.
- Wildfire crews from across the world are supporting Alberta’s efforts, including 299 firefighters from South Africa who are expected to be on the ground tomorrow.
- There was 0 to 11 mm of rain over the fire yesterday.
- There is a 60 per cent chance of rain today.
- Forecast for the Fort McMurray area for today: Approximately 19 C, 30 per cent humidity with southwest winds at 15 kilometres per hour.
- The Red Cross has raised more than $104 million, which does not include matching funds.
- The Government of Alberta will match individual donations made in Alberta to the Red Cross in support of the people in the Fort McMurray area until the end of day today.