While the re-entry to Fort McMurray is set to begin Wednesday, it’s not all good news. Premier Rachel Notley told a news conference about 500 homes in Abasand, Waterways, and Beacon Hill aren’t safe, so those residents won’t be able to return this week, as they were supposed to.
“It means that people who live in those neighborhoods should not plan to return permanently on June 4 as originally planned.”
“I realize this will be very difficult news to hear, for people who were expecting to return to their homes later this week. But as always safety and health remain our top priority,”
Air, soil and ash tests have proven to show a lot of contamination, according to Dr. Karen Grimsrud, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. “These tests have confirmed the presence of chemicals,” she told reporters.
“Specifically the ash has a very high pH (level), which makes it very caustic and may cause both skin and respiratory irritation and burns,” Grimsrud said.
“These results in high concentrations are not unexpected given what we have seen, but it’s critical that we take steps to protect residents from them,” she said.
The plan for these 567 homes, is to have the owners come in and inspect the situation, and grab any needed belongings they didn’t take in the original evacuation.
“So they can still gain access as was already outlined in the schedule but for those folks who thought they were gaining access and then staying there what we’re telling them now is they need to find alternative accommodation in Fort McMurray or come back to wherever they are currently staying and look to finding temporary accommodation for essentially the remainder of the summer,” Notley said.
“Their houses remain intact but the question is, when is it safe for them to go back into those neighborhoods? So we’re saying there’s just enough damage in those neighborhoods, that it’s not safe for them to be driving by it everyday, to have their kids playing around, their pets playing around it, all that kind of stuff while they’re in the process of cleaning it up, because we’re trying to get these neighborhoods cleaned up over the course of the next two or three months.”
About 9,000 others in those three neighborhoods had their homes completely destroyed. They’ll at some point be able to through the rubble, however they’ll have to arrange to be accompanied by a safety official.