Some people in the Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways neighbourhoods lost everything in the wildfire. But as the guided tours took place, several residents wondered if they would be able to rebuild their homes in the communities deemed uninhabitable due to toxins.
Arianna Johnson’s townhouse in Abasand was severely damaged. She knows a rebuild is needed, but she’s frustrated that she hasn’t heard anything from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo council on whether it will be possible.
“The Alberta government can call me almost every night for a town hall, but our municipal government can’t call the residents of the three most-affected areas and have a town hall conversation with them?” Johnson questioned Wednesday.
“Even if the answer is, ‘We don’t know the answers,’ at least we’re hearing you say it, not a newspaper article. You’re our elected officials and you need to talk to us.”
Mayor Melissa Blake was in Edmonton Wednesday for a council meeting and said it’s still not known if the three neighbourhoods will be rebuilt. In Waterways, for example, Blake said there may be legislative issues around reconstruction because it is on a flood plain.
“No decisions have been made,” Blake said. “The key driving factors are always going to be about safety and ensuring that the human health of any area that we have will be there… post emergency and well into the future.”
Blake said a recovery task force will be formed to speak to residents and officials before any decisions are made, with safety being the number one priority.
“We’ve got people interspersed throughout the country and we want to make sure everybody has a chance to have a fair say about what they think the future should be in their particular region,” Blake said.
Watch below: Raw video shot in the Abasand neighbourhood shows the devastating aftermath of last month’s wildfire
The mayor said if most people want to rebuild, council will do its best to make that happen.
“Finding the right balance is going to be an important thing, and the only way we can think about it is by asking the people themselves.”
In a statement to Global News, Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said: “We know how important it is to begin the rebuilding process in a timely way, but at the same time, it’s important to make smart decisions in consultation with residents.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Fort McMurray wildfire was estimated to have burned 581,956 hectares. The fire is nearly 70 per cent contained.