Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to tour Fort McMurray on Friday as crews work to get critical and key infrastructure up and running. He made the announcement Tuesday afternoon in the House of Commons.
“I do, and all Canadians, congratulate the brave fire fighters and first responders who have been there to do extraordinary work through these terrible blazes in Fort McMurray. I want to congratulate, as well, all the MPs from all parties, particularly the leader of the opposition who has been very engaged on the ground supporting their fellow citizens,” said Trudeau.
Those fighting the Fort McMurray fires are heroes. The evacuees’ courage is an inspiration. I will be visiting the area on Friday. #ymmfire
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 10, 2016
“I will be going personally to Fort McMurray on Friday to offer some support for all Canadians.”
Trudeau has been facing criticism from some who say the leader should have been faster to respond after the disaster. He previously stated that it didn’t make sense for him to attend and take personnel away from fighting the fire and ensuring the safety of those in the area.
Premier Rachel Notley met with oilsands executives Tuesday to discuss moving past the Fort Mcmurray wildfire.
Notley said because of the hard work of first responders, oilsands facilities north of Fort McMurray were not damage in the blaze.
“The oilsands region is vast with diverse operations. Facilities span from the west to the east in Alberta. For many operators, there was no wildfire risk and production continues as before. For those in and around Fort McMurray though, there is an economic consequence for taking production offline,” said Notley.
Notley said it was expected that companies will resume oilsands production once they are sure it is absolutely safe to do so.
LISTEN: Premier Rachel Notley addresses media after meeting with oil industry
Industry experts believe damage to critical infrastructure is minimal and the most needed assets are the staff that left the sites. There are suggestions that extended downtime could have the industry asking for financial help through bailouts or tax breaks.
FirstEnergy Capital analyst Martin King believed fuel prices could drop lower than shipping costs because of the cutbacks in oil production. He said the wildfire has caused the demand for natural gas in Alberta to be cut by 900 million cubic feet per day. The energy industry uses natural gas product in the oilsands production process.
As of late Tuesday morning, the province confirmed two wildfires near Fort McMurray had joined and that the fire has grown to 229,000 hectares and is 25 to 30 kilometres from the Saskatchewan border. Battling the blaze are 700 firefighters, 26 helicopters, 13 air tankers and 46 pieces of heavy equipment units.
Notley believed it could be weeks before evacuees could return home.
“The government of Alberta will be working closely with Fort McMurray, First Nations, and with all the other community leaders here on plans to stabilize the area, to make it safe and to help citizens return and rebuild,” says Notley. “I’m advised that we will be able to provide a schedule for return within two weeks.”
On Tuesday morning, Alberta Health Services confirmed more cases of a gastrointestinal illness at the major evacuation centre at the Edmonton Expo Centre at Northlands.
“We have seen a total of 105 cases of, likely, viral gastroenteritis in our evacuees from the Fort McMurray environment. This does further highlight the three step process we are taking with this,” said Sikora.
Sikora said the symptoms usually resolve within one to three days and consist of diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. He added that AHS staff were available at the site and will also deal with mental health issues and other needed support through a crisis centre.
“As I think time progresses we amy see more and more use of that which is fine. We’re happy to support individuals in times when need.”
Emergency reception centre manager Gerry Clarke said, since the fire started last Tuesday, over 16,000 people have made use of the evacuation centre set up at Northlands.
He said screens were set up to help show evacuees the first images of Fort McMurray since the disaster started when Notley and media were given a tour of the city Monday afternoon.
“One the whole, I would say it was very positive. It’s almost like being reunited with a loved one – something like, say you haven’t seen for the last week, you finally get a chance to see if the stories are true in a sense,” said Clarke.