On last night’s on-line town hall more questions were asked and answered for the evacuees.
Government officials stressed there’s no deadline to pick up your government debit card so residents don’t have to rush to get it. Another location at NAIT was opened yesterday.
Fire crews have been able to hold the fire with the cool weather, and have established fire guards around Fort McMurray and surrounding communities. Flare ups and hot spots are still a factor in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas, fire crews are constantly monitoring and successfully putting these areas out. There is hot dry weather expected over the next few days, however the wind is expected to go south east instead of north, pushing the fire and smoke away from Fort McMurray and surrounding areas.
At last report from the RMWB the Fire is an estimated 241,457 hectares. The fire is 13 kilometres from the Saskatchewan border, there are more than 700 firefighters on scene battling the blaze with 134 pieces of heavy equipment, 37 helicopters and 13 air tankers setting up fire breaks. The fire continues to move south east away from Fort McMurray and surrounding communities. Wind over the next few days is expected to go in a south east direction pushing the fire and smoke even further from the city.
Work is being done 24 hours a day 7 days a week to make sure we get home as soon possible, when it’s safe for us to reenter. There are certain things that must be in place before anyone can return:
-Infrastructure – clean water, sewage, gas, electricity, the hospital, grocery stores, gas stations etc.
-Roads must be inspected and repaired for safe driving, along with sidewalks and walk ways to ensure a safe environment for residents.
There have been 2,432 structures lost, with 500 more damaged and 25, ooo still standing. An assessment of the remaining structures must be completed to ensure they are safe for residents to return to. Damage teams are on site as of today to do these inspections.
There are 500 employees from Atco Gas and electric working on re-establishing power and gas to every residence and building in town. So far 20% of the underground gas line assessments have been completed, with 40% of the property assessments being finished.
400 Alberta Health Association employees are on site to get the hospital back to working order; although there was no fire damage to the hospital, smoke damage and loss of power for several days creates a sanitary issue for the care of patients. A temporary health centre has been put in place for all those who are currently working in the community.
So far 654 animals have been rescued from town taken to the SPCA in Edmonton and looked over by vets, 225 pets have been reunited with their families. If you still have a pet in Fort McMurray fill out the pet registration on the RMWB website; to be reunited with your pet call the Edmonton SPCA.
Trucks are continuing to head north to the oil sands facilities to restock camps, and ensure that they have everything they need to accommodate workers as they continue to restart the plants.
Access north on Highway 63 is still restricted to essential personnel only. If you are headed back up to work on site, contact your supervisor on how you are to get there as busing and fly in fly out are the only ways through Fort McMurray at this time.
It’s normal to feel strange, weird, angry sad, frustrated and sad in these situations as being ripped from your home and community is not an easy thing to go through. If you are in need of mental health aid get it; contact Health Link Alberta at 811, or call the Alberta Mental Health line 1-877-303-2642. The services are free to use. A plan is being put in place to help with mental health for the weeks, months, and years following this disaster for those who need it.
Insurance adjusters have entered Fort McMurray to commence external damage assessments on homes and buildings; no one will enter your home without your permission including, insurance adjusters. When it comes to insurance and insurance companies, you should know your rights: you have the right to be informed on all aspects of your claim, the right to know why something may have been declined or cancelled, the right to privacy of information, the right to know how they will protect your information and more. Go to IBC.ca for all the questions and answers you may have (Insurance Brokers of Canada)
If your vehicle was abandoned on Highway 63 south of Fort McMurray your vehicle is being towed to the Highway 63 towing and recovery yard in Wandering River, an RCMP officer will contact you to let you know. For vehicles on roads in Fort McMurray and north nothing can be done to retrieve them as of yet.
Contact Canada post to have your mail forwarded.
If you lost your passport or require a new one, contact the passport office to see how they can help you.
Questions and Answers
Q – How can I get my debit card when I can’t get to the center?
A- There is no deadline to pick up your card, if you are out of province and plan on returning soon, contact 310-4455 to enquire on where to pick it up if distribution centers are no longer in use. Also they are working on a broader way of giving out the cards to people who are not in the province or close to a center.
Q – When it is safe to return, will there be help to find a place to stay while your home is being rebuilt or repaired?
A – Talk to your insurance company about additional living expenses if your house in unlivable; temporary housing is being worked on for those who are returning to Fort McMurray without a place to live.
Q – What are the hours of distribution centers for the debit cards, and are they open on weekends?
A – They are open on the weekend and weekdays from 8 am to 8 pm
Q – Does the debit card from the government and electronic payment from the Red Cross affect those who are on government assistance, like Alberta works?
A – No, this will not affect your regular payments from the social assistance you are on currently.
Q – What is the status of the communities around Fort McMurray?
A – Anzac has lost 12 structures; all other communities have not reported any loss of structure.
Q – What are the steps being done to ensure looting doesn’t happen?
A – There are 400 RCMP officers on the ground doing regular patrols to ensure safety, check points are set up to check for credentials of those working in the city.
There have been 91 homes with evidence of forced entry, police are contacting home owners to see if this was a case of looting or something the home owner was aware of before the evacuation. Police are investigating the crimes reported to them, so far only a few crimes have been reported, and few cases of looting found.
Q – I registered with the Red Cross but do not have my registration number, how can I get my debit card?
A – Call the Red Cross at 1-888-350-6070 to talk with someone who will gladly give you the information you need.
Q – Will we get go return home to Fort McMurray this month?
A – At this time there is no way of knowing this, there is still lots of assessments to be done to ensure the safety for residents, and to ensure all infrastructure is in place before anyone can return. Within two weeks when the reentry plan is put in place you will have an answer of when returning will be possible.
Q – I work with AHS. Will there be a place for me to stay if I’m asked to return to Fort McMurray to aid in getting the hospital set up?
A – Talk to your supervisor about the need for you at this time or in the future, if there is temporary housing is in place.
Q – How can I confirm if my house is still standing?
A – The Government of Alberta is working hard with companies to take detailed overhead pictures of every area in Fort McMurray to see if your home is still standing. Then soon after, very detailed 360 degree views of every structure in town will be released so you are able to see all exterior damage to your home. These are hopefully going to be ready within the week
Q – How will they prioritize the return of residents to Fort McMurray?
A – They are working on a reentry plan that will outline every aspect of the return to Fort McMurray by residents; it should be ready within two weeks.
Q – If I left the province, am I eligible for the $1,250 debit card from the Alberta Government.
A – Anyone who was evacuated from Fort McMurray due to the wild fire is eligible for this financial aid, please register with the Red Cross.
Q – I am being called back to work at the oil sands facilities, am I able to drive north through town to get to work?
A – No as the city is still under a mandatory evacuation. Buses and fly in fly out services are being made to get workers to and from site. Contact your supervisor for info on how they will send you to work.
Q – I moved away from where I was after the evacuation, do I have to contact the Red Cross to let them know where I am?
A – Yes, if you change your location please contact the Red Cross so they know where you are.
Q – My vehicle is left at a camp north of Fort McMurray. Am I able to retrieve it? Are they going to be towing them to a location where it can be picked up?
A – As of now all vehicles in Fort McMurray and north in camps will be left where they are until it is safe to retrieve them.
Q – When it comes time to remove the perishable from our homes will there be help put in place?
A – This will all be announced as part of the reentry plan; for disposal of garbage and refrigerators contact your insurance company to see if you have coverage for a new one; if not, information on safely cleaning them will be provided.
Q – Is it too late to register with the Red Cross?
A – No it is not too late to register, as an evacuee you MUST do this, please call 1-888-350-6070 or visit redcross.ca.
Q – What is your definition of an abandoned vehicle?
A – Any vehicle left on the side of the road impeding traffic flow. These vehicles south of Fort McMurray are being towed to the Highway 63 Towing and Recovery yard; RCMP officers will contact you with the information on where your vehicle is, if they have not you can contact 310-4455 for information.
Q – What do I do to find my lost pet who is Fort McMurray?
A – Please fill out a pet registration form on the RMWB website. RCMP are rescuing animals and so far 654 animals have been rescued, with 225 of them reunited with their families.
Q – Will homes be plowed by bulldozers before we are allowed to search through the remains for items?
A – This will be addressed with the reentry plan, they would like to allow people to return to look for anything that may have survived the fire, but have to make sure it is safe to do so.
Q – Are schools preparing to offer mental health help to the students once they return to school?
A – Plans are being put in place by Alberta Health services to ensure mental health aid for all residents in the weeks, months and years to come.
Q – What happens if the shelters close before we are able to return home?
A – The shelters will remain open until reentry to Fort McMurray is allowed, after this those who do not have a home to return to will be part of the temporary housing plans being worked on.