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981 residents return to restricted neighbourhoods on first day of visitation

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
981 residents return to restricted neighbourhoods on first day of visitation

What appears to be a patio set sits covered in tackifier in the destroyed area of Beacon Hill on June 8, 2016 // Chris Vandenbreekel - Harvard Broadcasting

There are over 8,000 residents in Abasand, Beacon Hill, and Waterways, but only 981 returned on the first day of visitation to the neighbourhoods Wednesday.

Residents with homes still standing were able to go into their buildings to retrieve belongings, while many more were stuck looking at what was once their home from behind a tall green fence.

Two individuals weren’t content to wait for Team Rubicon, and breached the fence to sift through what was left of their properties on their own. Officials say the residents had the proper personal protective equipment, and there is no legal authority to stop someone from entering their own property.

“I understand why (they did) what they did,” said Director of Emergency Management Bob Couture. “They took that significant risk to expose themselves to those dangers behind that fence.”

“We do not recommend that, at all.”

Last week, Couture emphasized the dangers of broken glass, exposed nails, and jagged metal and concrete surfaces when speaking about going through the rubble. Toxins have also been found in the ash, necessitating the application of a white tackifier to keep the dangerous substances out of the air.

He is recommending that residents with destroyed or damaged properties contact Team Rubicon to set up an appointment to have their experts sift through for personal belongings.

Our newsroom was told that one individual in Beacon Hill who entered their property was able to retrieve a fire safe, a tea set, and other small trinkets.

Couture said he expects more residents to return for viewing over the coming days and weeks. For those who did return, he said it was an emotional day.

“It was incredible,” he said. “The emotion, the respect, and the thankfulness that those citizens had for all the work of essential services.”

“It simply stated, we’re in this together and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

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