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‘I didn’t know what to expect’: Fort McMurray residents get first look at homes in restricted areas

Click to play video: 'Abasand, Waterways, Beacon Hill residents see homes' Abasand, Waterways, Beacon Hill residents see homes
WATCH ABOVE: It's been a long awaited return home for Fort McMurray evacuees. After more than one month, access to three restricted areas was given. Shallima Maharaj was there – Jun 8, 2016

For the first time since a massive wildfire forced the entire city to flee, residents of three hardest-hit Fort McMurray neighbourhoods were allowed to see their properties.

Those living in the Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill neighbourhoods – which were deemed uninhabitable and restricted by officials – were given access to their homes – or what was left of them.

Officials estimate 90 per cent of Beacon Hill was destroyed by fire.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: Homeowners get first chance to sift through destroyed properties

Between 3,000 and 4,000 people were expected to gain access to their properties Wednesday and lineups to get into those communities were long at 7:30 Wednesday morning.

Adam Yuill lives in Abasand with his young family. He didn’t know what his home would look like when he returned.

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His home was still standing. In fact, aside from some garbage and rotten food, it was relatively untouched.

Watch below: Raw video shot in the Abasand neighbourhood shows the devastating aftermath of last month’s wildfire

Click to play video: 'Raw video: First look at the devastated Abasand neighbourhood of Fort McMurray' Raw video: First look at the devastated Abasand neighbourhood of Fort McMurray
Raw video: First look at the devastated Abasand neighbourhood of Fort McMurray – Jun 8, 2016

“It’s better than what I expected,” Yuill said, walking around his home. “I think everybody…in this area kind of assumed we were having flooded basements. This sump pump pumps twice an hour on normal years, normal times. The flip side was it was very dry so our basements aren’t flooded but the neighbourhood is gone.”

Security vehicles and those of residents were seen driving around the Abasand neighbourhood in Fort McMurray Wednesday. Global News
Street signs still stand in a Fort McMurray neighbourhood devastated by wildfire. Global News
Some neighbourhoods are fenced off and most are covered in tackifer to prevent the spread of ash and other toxins. Global News
Masked officials guide residents through three Fort McMurray neighbourhoods previously inaccessible Wednesday. Global News
Masked officials guide residents through three Fort McMurray neighbourhoods previously inaccessible Wednesday. Global News
Security vehicles and those of residents were seen driving around the Abasand neighbourhood in Fort McMurray Wednesday. Global News
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Team Rubicon members sift through fire-ravaged properties in three restricted Fort McMurray neighbourhoods. Global News
Team Rubicon members sift through fire-ravaged properties in three restricted Fort McMurray neighbourhoods. Global News
Abasand was one of three areas deemed restricted by Fort McMurray officials after the fire. Global News
Restricted areas are fenced off in Fort McMurray but residents were allowed supervised visits Wednesday. Global News
Restricted areas are fenced off in Fort McMurray but residents were allowed supervised visits Wednesday. Global News
Restricted areas are fenced off in Fort McMurray but residents were allowed supervised visits Wednesday. Global News
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Sections of Abasand are covered in tackifier Wednesday as residents get a first look at their properties. Global News
A helicopter flies over Fort McMurray as the residents of three restricted areas get access to their homes Wednesday. Global News
Sections of Abasand remain untouched while others are destroyed and now covered in tackifier. Global News
Three restricted areas of Fort McMurray (Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill) are covered in tackifier as residents are allowed supervised visits to their properties Wednesday. Global News
Three restricted areas of Fort McMurray (Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill) are covered in tackifier as residents are allowed supervised visits to their properties Wednesday. Global News
Parts of Abasand are covered in tackifier Wednesday as residents in the restricted Fort McMurray neighbourhood get access to their properties.
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Parts of Abasand are covered in tackifier Wednesday as residents in the restricted Fort McMurray neighbourhood get access to their properties. Global News
Residents of three restricted areas (Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill) were allowed supervised access to their properties Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Global News
Residents of three restricted areas (Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill) were allowed supervised access to their properties Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Global News
Adam Yuill's baby room and recently-laid new floors in his basement were undamaged Wednesday when he got a first look at his Fort McMurray home. Global News
Adam Yuill gets a first look at his home Wednesday in one of the restricted areas in Fort McMurray following last month's wildfire. Global News
Adam Yuill gets a first look at his home Wednesday in one of the restricted areas in Fort McMurray following last month's wildfire. Global News

The neighbourhoods of Waterways, Beacon Hill and Abasand were deemed uninhabitable because of toxins detected through environmental monitoring. However, residents of those communities were provided supervised access to their properties along with members of Wood Buffalo’s property visit team and accredited contractors who are accompanying homeowners.

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READ MORE: ‘It is going to be an emotional day’: Wood Buffalo official on eve of restricted area tour in Fort McMurray 

While things appear OK at Yuill’s house, he’s not bringing his children back until he gets a professional second opinion.

“It smells like garbage. Other than that, it’s hard to tell. We need professionals to inspect and test things.

“Before I have the kids back in the house basically I need everything tested, it needs to be safe. It needs to be independently tested by someone to say everything is clean. I want to make sure there’s no contamination in any way in this house so the kids can grow up with no concern of health hazards.”

READ MORE: Aerial footage above Fort McMurray shows the devastation in Abasand and Beacon Hill

Yuill’s youngest daughter had respiratory issues as a baby, which makes getting an “all clear” that much more important.

“That is my nightmare: that something in our house is something that would cause them sickness.”

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Anil Fernando’s apartment in Abasand was reduced to a mountain of rubble.

“Yeah, it’s depressing and it’s sad, but life has to go on,” he said.

Re-entry provided a small measure of hope for Robert Tupper.

“I was one of the three units left in Hillview condos,” he said.

“There was something like 44 units – 214 dwellings and there’s three of them left and mine’s one of them.”

Arianna Johnson also saw her home for the first time Wednesday.

“It’s literally been a month since the fire burned through this neighbourhood, so sure, the smell of smoke has settled and it wouldn’t be as bad,” Johnson said. “But I know people who walked into their homes: “oh, there’s no smell of smoke,’ and then they go into their basement and wipe a cloth across the windowsill and it’s covered in soot.”

“I have a child and I have animals and I don’t want to expose them to that kind of stuff.”

Her house is still standing and she’s met with insurance representatives.

“I continue to be in purgatory,” she said.

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Watch below: So many Fort McMurray residents lost so much in last month’s devastating wildfire. Many are still trying to come to terms with the catastrophe. On Thursday, Shallima Maharaj spoke with a Metis elder from the hard-hit neighbourhood of Waterways about the historic family home he lost in the fire.

Click to play video: 'Metis elder talks about losing historic home in Fort McMurray' Metis elder talks about losing historic home in Fort McMurray
Metis elder talks about losing historic home in Fort McMurray – Jun 9, 2016

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