As thousands head home to Fort McMurray, hundreds more are there to help
'Today is not the end of the story, it is not a return to normal life and it's not yet a celebration'
The residents of Fort McMurray have begun to reclaim their once-abandoned city.
As thousands of displaced people made their way back to the homes they fled from four weeks ago, some were likely thinking about the hundreds of people who worked hard to save their city and get it ready for the June 1 re-entry deadline.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was in the city, at Fire Station 5, to talk about the first day of the re-entry plan.
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"Today begins a journey more than a month in the making," Notley said. "This journey is possible because of incredibly brave and dedicated first-responders who were able to save so much of this city, from one of the most destructive wildfires Alberta, and indeed Canada, has ever seen."
She thanked those who worked to prepare the city for re-entry, and the residents of Fort McMurray themselves for their patience, during the evacuation and the month-long wait to return home.
"You have shown tremendous courage under the most difficult of circumstances," she said. "And you will need every ounce of that courage in the days to come. Today is not the end of the story. It is not a return to normal life and it's not yet a celebration.
"There is still a lot of work to recover and rebuild Wood Buffalo. This will be the work of years, not weeks."
The premier was joined by Melissa Blake, the mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and by Bob Couture, the director of emergency management.
Given the enormity of what happened on Wednesday, the municipality provided some statistics, some facts and figures, to put it all in perspective, saying:
- 10 per cent of residents lost their homes in the wildfire that raged into their city on May 3.
- 126 home, auto and business insurance companies are adjusting claims in the region.
- 810 insurance personnel and adjusters are currently on the ground, with another 744 expected.
- 30,000 welcome packs have been distributed to homes across the city.
- ATCO has so far re-lit pilots for natural gas in 1,776 houses.
The 15,000 residents now headed for home are in no sense alone.
Here are some other statistics about the army of workers now helping to get the city back on its feet.
Those people include employees of:
- Alberta Health Services, emergency medical services, 226 staff
- Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, 473 staff
- Telus, 133 staff
- ATCO Electric, 206 staff
- ATCO Gas, 224 staff
- RCMP, 160 officers and staff
- Shaw, 46 staff
- Firefighters and forestry, 2,200 staff
- Insurance Bureau of Canada, 710 staff
Staff from non-governmental agencies include:
- Canadian Global Response, 30 staff
- Billy Graham Rapid Response, 10 staff
- Samaritan's Purse, 20 staff
- The Salvation Army, 60 staff
- Canadian Red Cross, 60 staff