Below is the town hall summary for the RMWB forum held on July 11. The questions and answers have been paraphrased, and are not intended as direct quotations.
Q: What resources are available for businesses?
A: Back to Business Centre, Business hotline (1-855-769-2249), emergency small business financial relief
Q: How can those who aren’t back in the region access the second round of Red Cross funding?
A: Go to your local Red Cross office and inquire there.
Q: Can we get an update on how the demolition and permitting process is going?
A: SPECS (hired by insurers) has selected a “preferred local contractor” and are finalizing the contract. Announcement coming in next few days.
Q: Who do I talk to about a payout for my destroyed lot?
A: Insurance is only responsible for structure, while land still belongs to homeowner. It’s the homeowner’s responsibility to clean up land and sell it if they so wish.
Q: I’m having problems getting insurance to approve new items for my damaged home, what do I do?
A: Contact IBC at 1-844-2ask-IBC
Q: What did Phase 2 environmental tests discover?
A: Ash composition was expected of structure/automobile fires, toxicity is highly localized and not a concern. Soil/air/water is safe. Read story here.
Q: Will there be fines for property owners who take too long to clean up their destroyed properties?
A: RMWB can issue a demolition order. If lot isn’t cleaned up by the order date, then the municipality has the power to go in and do the demolition.
Q: When will city buses return to normal?
A: They have restored nearly full service, with some planned changes.
Q: Has there been any more talk as to putting mortgage payments on hold for destroyed properties?
A: Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee is arranging meetings with CMHC and Canadian Bankers’ Association to negotiate relief.
Q: Why is there a discrepancy between private and public soil testing results?
A: Contaminants could have been present before fire, elevating levels in localized areas. Private tests also didn’t show anything exceeding Tier 2.
Q: Can we start rebuilding as soon as our lot is cleaned up?
A: A permit will be needed to rebuild, and it can’t be done until a third phase of environmental tests confirm that the land is safe for use.
Q: Was the “ban” on children under 7 ever lifted?
A: There are no longer any AHS advisories/concerns for residents, all ages welcome to return to region.
Q: Will residents whose homes are damaged but still standing, and who don’t have home insurance, get any help?
A: Red Cross is managing situations on a case-by-case basis.
Q: Why isn’t my insurer covering lawn damage from dozer tracks?
A: Unless lawn damage is specified, insurer is only responsible for home structure.
Q: I’m a contractor, how can I get involved in the rebuild?
A: Fill out the RMWB offer of resources form.
Q: How long can a lot stay unbuilt after cleanup?
A: Rebuild will start after the demolition process is complete (no answer as to timeline).
Q: Is it worth replacing attic insulation before demolition and cleanup occurs?
A: You and your insurer only want to do it once, so it would be wise to wait.
Q: How will homes that were row-houses before the wildfire be rebuilt?
A: Row-houses rebuild will be complicated due to need for co-ordination among homeowners. Municipality may have to rezone properties under land use bylaw to allow free-standing homes.
Q: Will the fire break behind Shalestone Way be cleaned up?
A: Yes, and homes that were used as fire break will be restored as well.
Q: With the new provincial tests coming back showing it is safe for humans, will residents be able to return to restricted areas soon?
A: The restriction is based off the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations. CMO says debris must be cleaned up before a return can occur.
Q: Is there a firm date for an Abasand return?
A: No, but RMWB is working to try and get people home as soon as possible.
Q: When will we know the costs of the SPECS contractor’s cleanup?
A: Once the contract is finalized, insurers will be able to provide that cost to homeowners.
Q: Where can I find information on landfill fees and requirements for debris?
A: You can access the information online here.
Q: Centennial RV Park is informing residents they need to have their lots cleared of debris by July 15 or else they’ll be billed for the general cleanup. What’s going on here?
A: The park is privately owned, but the RMWB will look into the situation and see what can be done to help residents.
Q: Are there plans to condemn standing homes in Beacon Hill?
Q: Can campgrounds expect an influx of RVs if Abram’s Land ceases service?
A: Abram’s Land is set to stop RV services on September 30, so an influx can be expected then. RMWB will be contacting campgrounds to assess capacity.