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Thousands return home to fire-scarred Fort McMurray

Last Updated Jun 1, 2016 at 12:44 pm PDT

Summary

Up to 15,000 of the more than 80,000 people who were displaced will re-enter today

Complete restoration of the 2,400 or so fire-damaged structures is expected to run at least into the fall

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. (NEWS 1130) – It will be an emotional day in fire-scarred Fort McMurray, Alberta.

One month after a wildfire gutted much of the city, thousands of the people who were forced to evacuate their homes are being allowed to return for the first time.

 

Up to 15,000 of the more than 80,000 people who were displaced will re-enter the city they call home today.

LISTEN: Reporter Crystal Laderas talks to anchors Tim James and Amanda Wawryk as people return home

 

One of the first things people will do is assess the damage.

And when they do, around 80 employees from the Vancouver branch of restoration company PuroClean will be there.

But the company’s vice president of Canadian operations Stephen Coombs says people will need time to themselves before dealing with any sort of cleanup.

“That’s very, very important to the Alberta government and the community, that the homeowners and the business owners see their places and check their valuables. It’s a very emotional time for them as well.”

Their work will range dramatically depending on each case.

“Some of these homes have very little damage. It’s going to be a light cleaning in some of these areas like Thickwood, Thickwood wasn’t hit as hard as others. Yet if the windows were open, there would still be soot and carbon substrate so deodorization cleaning (will be required) and it goes all the way to heavy cleaning,” says Coombs.

“We’ll do tests with chemical sponges if there’s smoke and odour. And then we’ll look for any evidence if the electricity was out for a while. A lot of the issues could be with refrigeration.”

The entire restoration of the 24,000 or so fire-damaged structures is expected to run at least into the fall.

Even the assessments will take time; some of the most fire-ravaged neighbourhoods still aren’t accessible because of toxic ash.

Returning evacuees are being told to have at least two weeks’ worth of food and medication with them as even basic services and supplies will be limited.