Cariboo Regional District Area F Director Joan Sorley returned to Fort McMurray recently to hand deliver a thank you card from local residents for the kindness shown to the region during the 2017 wildfires.
“I met with the deputy mayor and two of the councillors in the mayor’s office,” Sorley said. “We had coffee and shared stories.”
While there Sorley also went out to a restaurant with some of the men who delivered supplies to people in the Cariboo during the summer.
“They really dropped everything for 11 days to come down here and they did it on their own dime,” Sorley said.
“They ran around to our communities helping us get what we needed.”
Sorley said even though it is winter, she could see that Fort McMurray has done a lot of clean up since its big fire in 2016.
“There are some new buildings, but people are still struggling,” Sorley said.
A majority of the residents have returned to Fort McMurray, said Jordan Redshaw, communications strategist with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
“Our region did experience a decline in population through the fire, however, we are unable to attribute specifically how much was associated with the fire versus how much was a result of the economic downturn, or the combination of both,” he said.
The City will have a better understanding of its current population this year once it completes the municipal census, he added.
Because of the economic downturn that happened prior to the Fort McMurray fire, there was a 20 per cent vacancy rate in the area, which meant when people returned who had lost their homes, the majority of them could rent another place to live while they waited for a rebuild.
So far, of the 2,579 dwelling units that were destroyed, 419 units have been rebuilt, Redshaw said.
“However, 1,115 have completed their insulation and vapour barrier inspections, which indicates significant progress,” Redshaw said. “We anticipate that 1,000 to 1,400 dwelling units will be completed by the end of 2018.”
For people in the Cariboo Chilcotin wondering what the spring will look like, when the snow is gone Redshaw said in 2017 green grass came back in all of the burned areas in Fort McMurray.
“We are still removing trees, but it is amazing how many survived.”