Some Fort McMurray residents will tentatively be able to start coming home on June 1st. Premier Rachel Notley says it will be a voluntary, phased in process that will only start if conditions set out for a safe re-entry are met.
“And it’s a balancing act. We don’t want to have people completely commit to a certain date, but at the same time we’ve been hearing more and more that people need to have some idea of the dates that we’re dealing with, and so we hope we’ve achieved that balance.”
The five conditions are that the wildfire is no longer an imminent threat to the community, critical infrastructure and essential services are restored, and hazardous areas are secure. Local government must also be re-established.
People who live in the least-damaged areas of the region will be allowed to return home first. Those include the downtown, Anzac and First Nations communities. Wildrose Leader Brian Jean lost his home in the fire, but says it’s a relief to have a timeline.
“I know and understand that people in Fort McMurray, my citizens, my family, my friends are going through a lot of anxiety, a lot of grief, anguish, and many other feelings. They are tired, stressed, and waiting to hear this news, and I thank the premier for it.”
The announcement comes one day after Notley said they’d have to give the re-entry plan another look due to two explosions in the city and extreme air quality levels. Mayor Melissa Blake reminds returning residents they’re not coming home to the community they once knew.
“We really do have a fantastic community to return to, but I beg you not to put yourself in any kind of risk or peril. What you’re returning to is not what you’ve seen before; envision and imagine with me what it will be a year from now, five years from now and 10 years from now.”
Notley asks those returning to make sure they’re prepared with essentials like prescriptions, food and water, coolers and appropriate clothing. People who could be affected by the poor air quality are asked to wait.