It’s been three years since a raging wildfire tore through Fort McMurray and surrounding areas of northern Alberta, forcing more than 60,000 people from their homes. While many people are back in their homes or have moved away from the community, the rebuild continues for several others.
“Lives have been destroyed. It’s easy for people to go on the media and say things are good and the rebuild is going well. It’s not going well for everybody — there are still a lot of people in Fort McMurray suffering,” Fort McMurray resident Jaime Harpe said.
The wildfire tore through the Fort McMurray region in May 2016, destroying 2,579 homes.
More than 60,000 insurance claims were made, at a cost of about $3.6 billion, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
“More claims are closing every day. As we approach the three-year anniversary, less than one per cent of all of those insurance claims remain open,” said Rob de Pruis, director of consumer and industry relations with the western branch of IBC.
De Pruis explained the claims that remain open are typically more complex matters that require more time, and in some cases, builders and trades are the cause for the delay.
“This wildfire event was Canada’s costliest insured event in our nation’s history,” he said. “We are not rebuilding one house. We are rebuilding entire neighbourhoods and entire communities and that takes time.”
WATCH BELOW: Here’s a look back at how the first few days of the Fort McMurray wildfire unfolded.
So far, only about 37 per cent of the destroyed homes have been rebuilt. De Pruis said many people chose not to rebuild after the fire or have since moved away. But for those who remain in the community and out of their homes, the past three years haven’t been easy.
“Three years is a long time to have your life in limbo and destroyed and it just feels like there’s no end in sight,” said Harpe, whose home was one of 86 destroyed in the Sapre Creek Estates neighbourhood near the airport.
“You’re paying on a pile of ashes every single month and you still have to pay your rent.”
Harpe said she’s been in an ongoing battle with her insurance company and her home’s replacement cost has not yet been paid out.
“Being treated like it was your fault. You know, we didn’t ask for the fire to destroy our home and our lives. We just want our home back.”
Watch below: Ongoing Global News coverage of the Fort McMurray wildfire
People who are in a dispute with their insurance company have several options when it comes to trying to resolve the issue, according to the IBC. The insurance bureau’s dispute resolution guide can be viewed below.
With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News.