Supervised visits only starting June 8 for residents of hardest-hit areas of Fort McMurray
Saturday was the day residents from Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways — the neighbourhoods hardest-hit by the wildfire in Fort McMurray — were originally scheduled to return to their homes.
But as people from other neighbourhoods were greeted by waving firefighters and a Mountie in red serge Saturday morning, residents from Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways were still waiting for a chance to return.
On May 31, they were told their re-entry would be delayed due to safety concerns, and that they might have to wait until September to come back home.
On Friday, officials released a property visit schedule that will allow supervised visits for residents of these neighbourhoods, starting June 8.
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Residents who have lost their homes in these restricted neighbourhoods will be able to survey the damage at that time.
Escorted visits to destroyed homes outside of these restricted neighbourhoods will begin June 5.
Residents aren’t allowed to visit destroyed homes on their own. Once inside these neighbourhoods, they can ask to be accompanied by members of an NGO group called Team Rubicon who can sift through the rubble for their belongings.
Despite the delay in return to the hardest-hit areas, officials say the re-entry is moving along as planned.
Chemical to keep ash from flying
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is working in the hardest hit neighbourhood to apply tackifier, a powder that dries to a hard shell. It’s used to cover the toxic ash and prevent it from blowing into the air.
Workers have finished applying tackifier to structures in Waterways and have covered about 35 per cent of destroyed areas in Abasand. Work started on Beacon Hill on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the first day of re-entry, only 8,000 of the 13,000 residents eligible to return to the city came back. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, estimated upward of 20,000 of the possible 40,000 eligible residents returned on Thursday.
On Friday, people in Zones 3 and 4A began their return. This included the neighbourhoods of Prairie Creek, Wood Buffalo, Gregoire, Sapare Creek and Thickwood. About 22,000 residents were eligible to return, but officials expected only about half would do so.
Returning residents are still urged to bring enough food, water, fuel and medication to last up to two weeks as services in the city remain limited.
More than 30,000 detailed information booklets have been delivered to homes around the city. They contain essential cleanup and safety information and all returning residents are urged to read them.
No rush for man who lost home
Rick Brown lived with his family in the Waterways neighbourhood. His house was destroyed by the fire, so he’s in no rush to get back.
“Our place got wiped out, someone sent us a text the other day,” said Brown. “They’ve coated it with some white chemical or something and it’s all fenced off. So essentially we can go watch and that’s it.”
“It is what it is, we can’t do anything about it, so we just gotta move on.”