HGTV guru Mike Holmes brought decades worth of contracting experience and a team of his own to Fort McMurray on Friday as the northern Alberta town contemplates rebuilding after the devastating fires in May.
“It’s not just about receiving – I swear, there’s a ton of emails – I want to come here to make sure that I can explain to people: ‘Relax. Things happen,'” he said. “This was bad. I did not know it was 2,600 homes until probably a week or so ago… I just want to say: ‘Slow down, work as a team, let’s learn from this, let’s see what we can put in place to make it better the next time.'”
“This is the perfect opportunity to step forward to build smarter,” Holmes said. “We just have to think differently.”
After meeting fans and taking photos with them at the airport, Holmes visited the Beacon Hill area. He went to the home of a family whose company, Vicky’s Homes, is accredited by Holmes Approved Homes.
That was the first time Todd Prudem, who grew up in Beacon Hill, and his family have seen their home since being forced out by a massive wildfire that ripped through the city May 3.
As Prudem surveyed the damage, he looked through the piles of white ash in the hopes of finding any keepsake left behind.
More than 2,000 structures were destroyed during the Fort McMurray wildfire and forced the evacuation of approximately 80,000 people. Some were out of their homes nearly a month before the first phase of residents were allowed back into the community.
Holmes fielded a number of questions while in Beacon Hill Friday, with the most common related to safe timelines for rebuilding, contamination and differentiating good contractors from bad.
He said the biggest potential mistake that could be made in Fort McMurray would be impatience.
“If there’s 2,600 families that have been displaced somehow someway, get together as a team, start talking to the right people and don’t get excited because that’s not going to get you anywhere, it’s only going to make your blood boil, it’s not going to solve problems.”
Tina Mootrey’s condo near Beacon Hill is still standing but there is damage.
“The whole back of our siding is all gone. The membrane has melted and the windows have bowed,” she said.
Mootrey is not allowed to live in her condo right now but still visits it regularly. She is currently staying in a trailer park.
She and her husband wanted to meet Holmes to ask the contractor what he thought they should do next.
“We wanted to ask him some questions of what he thought smoke damage and siding… would be like,” she said.
Leanne McAmmond’s house in Beacon Hill burned down completely.
“Right now we’re just going day to day, after that we’re hoping to hear from the city whether or not we’re going to be allowed to rebuild in the area and go from there,” she said.
McAmmond said she wants to rebuild because she likes Beacon Hill. She is guessing she will have to dig out her lot completely, put in a new foundation and build a new house.
The Fort McMurray resident has been watching Holmes since she was 12 years old and had a few questions for him.
Holmes held a free information session at 3 p.m. Friday at Shell Place.
Part of Holmes’ plan while in Fort McMurray is to meet with local officials and learn more about the rebuilding efforts.
“The Alberta wildfires have left thousands of people without homes and I am proud that my team is helping to Make It Right,” Holmes said in a post on Twitter last week.
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With files from Julia Wong, Global News