Town Hall Summary May 18th
The Alberta Government and RMWB have tentatively set a phased re-entry plan to begin June 1, with a full community return set for June 15.
Premier Rachel Notley made the announcement flanked by Fort McMurray-Conklin MLA and Opposition Leader Brian Jean, as well as RMWB Mayor Melissa Blake.
Notley stressed that this timeline is dependent on work to restore services being completed, which in turn is contingent on fire and smoke staying away from the community. She noted that while work has been slowed in recent days crews had been ahead of schedule in returning water, gas, and electricity to the city. She added that retailers were also ahead of schedule in cleaning up and restocking their stores to prepare for the re-entry.
The schedule for phased re-entry is as follows:
June 1: Lower town site, Anzac, Fort McMurray First Nation
June 2: Thickwood, Timberlea, Stone Creek, Eagle Ridge, Wood Buffalo
June 3: Gregoire, Saline Creek
June 4: Abasand, Beacon Hill, Saprae Creek, Waterways
The re-entry is completely voluntary, and those with health issues are advised to stay away for longer due to air quality and health service levels.
The full re-entry date is set for June 15 to coincide with the predicted date that the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre will regain full functionality.
Residents returning in the first four days should note that several services won’t be available at the hospital, and boil water advisory will be in place until the end of June.
People wishing to get back into the city are urged to check on the status of their home before planning their travel. The RMWB has released a tool that provides high-resolution looks at every property including a fire report. Those whose homes have been destroyed will have transitional housing provided, a plan for which the government will provide details on soon.
There were 12 new wildfire starts in the last 24 hours.
Currently there are 18 wildfires burning
3 out of control
1 being held
12 under control and
2 turned over to local authorities.
There are about 1900 firefighters
29 air tankers and
426 pieces of heavy equipment.
The Fort McMurray fire continues to burn out of control. Yesterday it grew towards Highway 63, north of Parsons Creek but did not cross the highway. This fire is now estimated to be more than 423,000 hectares.
We’re not aware of any further damage to or loss of industry camps beyond Black Sands Lodge, reported lost to fire yesterday.
Residents can only return when five key conditions are met:
Wildfire is no longer an imminent threat
Critical infrastructure to support essential services is repaired and restored to provide a basic service level.
Essential services are restored to basic level, including:
Emergency Services (Fire, EMS, Police, 911)
Open, safe transportation to, and within, the community (includes traffic controls)
Access to emergency medical care and patient transport
Access to potable water, electricity and gas
Access to food, pharmaceuticals, banks and other essentials
Access to mental health supports
Hazardous areas are secure
Local government is re-established (this condition has already been met)
Due to poor air quality, lots of the restoration efforts have been halted until it is safe to continue. The restoration staffs for the hospital were evacuated and will be returning to Fort McMurray when it is safe to do so.
Electricity has been restored to all areas of town; the restoration of natural gas has been halted until the investigation on the source of the explosion in Dickensfield has concluded.
A list of essential retail services is being made so the owners and managers can be contacted on when they will be allowed to return to assess damage commence repairs and restock shelves for the reentry of residents. This also goes for the management of apartment buildings, they will be allowed to return early and commence repairs to make sure all units are safe for residents to live upon return.
Questions and Answers
Q – IF our home is still standing in the badly affected areas such as Beacon Hill or Abasand will we be allowed to live there, and is it ok for children to live in these areas?
A – Even if your home is still standing, it may have structural damage, or other things making it unsafe to live in for anyone. It will need to be inspected before you can move in. As for children these areas are not the safest you may want to think about holding off their return, as the hospital will not be up to full operations and air quality will still be low.
Q – Will small businesses be able to operate June 2nd?
A – Yes, after all safety checks are done, clean up is finished restocking has taken place and certified safe you will be able to operate, just remember the boil water advisory will still be in place.
Q – Will reentry affect insurance funds?
A – As reentry starts, and your home is unlivable, additional funding may be available through the additional living expenses of your policy as this is different than the funds given through the mandatory evacuation part of your policy. Talk to your insurance provider to find out specifics on your policy. There may be a time limit on funds given through the mass evacuation part of your policy or a maximum amount allotted, talk to your insurance provider to find out what these limits are.
Q – Will there be a restriction on bringing in campers to stay in while homes are repaired or rebuilt?
A – No restriction will be in place for campers, as long as you are able to access your area of town.
Q – How does the rebuild of my house work with insurance, will there be changes made to the home?
A – When it comes to your insurance company, they want to return your home to the way it was before the fire, so it will be remade exactly the same way it was, the only things that might change are updates to building codes or bylaws.
Q – When will the boil water advisor be lifted?
A – They are hoping to have clean water restored by June 15th but it may not be over until the end of May
Q – Is there a plan for the removal of fridges and freezers?
A – As part of the reentry plan, things are being put in place for a mass pickup of fridges and freezers, information will be given on when to place them sealed on your front yard for pickup.
Q – Will there be added security for reentry?
A – Police presence will remain large during reentry and for the time being, to restrict access to very damaged areas and areas that may be unsafe.
Q – With homes having asbestos and other hazardous materials in them that have burnt down, will precautions be put in place so these pollutants don’t affect residents upon reentry while clean up is being done?
A – As part of the reentry process these hazards will all be assessed and made safe before people are able to access these areas.
Q – What was the cause of the fire?
A – An investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing. The fact the fire started in a remote area of the forest it is most likely cause by man, but lightning or some other factor may be the cause. They are hoping to have the answer soon.
Q – How do people out of Alberta get their government debit cards?
A – A plan is still being put in place for this; also there is no expiry date to get your card, so when you return to Alberta it will be available for you at any Alberta Works office.
Q – Will employees of big box stores like grocery store be allowed in early to get back up and running before reentry?
A – Yes a list of crucial retail is being made so owners and managers and employees can return, to fix damage, clean restock shelves and get certification of safety for reopening to be able to serve the public with necessities for repopulation.
Q – Why are there people still in Fort McMurray who shouldn’t be there with the mandatory evacuation in place?
A – During the evacuation the RCMP had too much to do with helping those leave in a safe manner. The RCMP did not have the time or resources to force those who lack common sense out of the city because they have more important matters to deal with. Most of these people have left due to lack of resources. The RCMP is keeping a close eye on those who remain. They want to focus on the 99 percent of people not the 1 percent who put themselves in this situation.
Q – What is the status of the tower road campground?
A – The fire has not affected the campground as of last report.
Q – Will there be a higher police presence for reentry?
A – Police will be fully functional upon reentry and will restrict access to certain areas around town and will continue to patrol neighborhoods to assure the safety of residents and property.
Q – Will those who have lost their homes be granted access to look for anything that can be salvaged before cleanup starts?
A – As long as it is safe to do so, people will be allowed to search through debris for anything they can find. Most likely in some kind of monitored group, individuals going whenever they want may be a risk, further plans are being made to allow this.
Q – A text message for Red Cross funding was sent to me, is this real, where can I access it?
A – Yes this text message is real, if you receive it; we have teamed with Canada Post offices to have this funding for you. In the message it will tell you to go to your nearest post office.
Q – Is returning to Fort McMurray safe for a new born?
A – The air quality will still be low, safe before children to return when it’s between 1 and three on the scale. The hospital won’t be fully functional so it’s not the safest time to bring in children, expecting women, or people with respiratory issues quite yet. For information on specific health question contact Health Link Alberta at 811.
Q – Will health inspectors be checking businesses before they are able to reopen?
A – Yes, after you have repaired, cleaned up and restocked your business it will be inspected to assure its safe to operate for reentry.
Q – Is it mandatory for you to be there with your insurance adjuster to view your home if you know it is gone?
A – No, you do not have to be there with the insurance adjuster for the assessment, but you will have to provides proof of loss; a list of everything in your home3. You can access an example list at ibc.ca
Q – What is being done to assure the safety of the air, the water and the soil for residents when they return?
A – They are constantly monitoring the air quality, the quality of the soil and the water to insure all is safe and up to code before residents are allowed to return.
Q – Why is it ok for people to return with fires still out of control and poor air quality still a problem in the region?
A – As of know it’s not safe to return, but the reentry of June first has been picked by experts who continue to assess the fire, the 5 factors needed to be in place before reentry and the safety of all who return. By June first everything should be in place and it will be safe for people to return home.
Q – My home is in the restricted use area, what does this mean?
A – During the damage assessment of the crews these homes were deemed to have damage, whether it be something small like a piece of siding hanging down in front of the door blocking entry to more severe damage. As insurance adjuster check out your homes, they will give you a better understanding of the damage to your home.
Q – How will the staged reentry work, will they have checkpoints before Fort McMurray checking ID’s and only allowing those people who are able to enter that day into town?
A – No, there will not be address checks or anything like this, the reason for a staged reentry is to prevent the taxing of resources in the community as there will not be full services in place like before, there may only be two grocery stores up and running instead of them all, or only a few gas stations open. They don’t want to run into problems having 80 thousand people all returning at once.
Q – With debit cards disbursement centers closing on the 20th, where do I get mine after that?
A – They will be available for pick up at any Alberta Works office, and again there is no deadline on these cards.
Q – Will there be an increased presence of Fish and Wildlife officers in the region for reentry to help with displaced wild animals such as bears in the community?
A – Due to the fire wild animals have been coming into the city looking for food, Fish and Wildlife officers are working to catch and relocate these animals out of the community.
Q – During repairs and reconstruction of homes, will there be rentail space available for residents who can’t live at home?
A – Yes, the government is working on plans for interim housing for individuals who will need it during the recovery phase.
Q – Will apartment owners and landlords be granted access before reentry to assess damage and make repairs on units so its safe for tenants to return?
A – Yes, this will be part of the list of retailers and essential resources granted access early to make sure everything is safe for reentry.
Q – Will there be fuel in Fort McMurray for the reentry?
A – Yes, this is part of the 5 conditions needed to be met before reentry. Fuel, food, access to resources is all needed before anyone can return.
Q – Will there be updates given on air quality and when it’s safe for those with medical problems and children to return?
A – Yes, this will constantly be monitored and updated to the public.
Q – Where do we get the info on the process to rebuild my home?
A – Contact your insurance provider to see exactly what they need from you, ands what they need to do to begin the cleanup and rebuilding of your home.