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Temporary housing to be provided within Fort McMurray

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By Shari Narine Sweetgrass Contributing Editor EDMONTON







May 19, 2016.

Officials are still working on “nailing down details” on what temporary housing will look like in Fort McMurray when residents, who have lost their homes, return.

Even though only 10 per cent of structures were destroyed, it represents a significant impact for the Indigenous population.

Sara Parker, director of intergovernmental affairs with the Métis Nation of Alberta, said many of the approximately 5,000 Metis citizens evacuated have no homes to return to. Some of the most ravaged Fort McMurray neighbourhoods – Beacon Hill, Abasand, Centennial Trailer Park and Saprae Creek – were where many of the families lived.

Eriel Deranger, executive assistant and communications coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, said a low income housing block in the Timberlea neighbourhood, which housed ACFN members, burned. The neighbourhoods of Beacon Hill and Waterways, which was also hard hit, housed many ACFN and Mikisew Cree Nation members as well.

“Certainly ensuring that people have a place, whether they have a home or not in Fort McMurray in terms of their permanent home, that they do have a place to live in until they can re-establish their home, absolutely that’s a key priority for us,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Diane Larivee Thursday morning.

Larivee noted that vacancies were high in the community prior to the wildfires that forced people from their homes on May 3.

“As we nail those down we’ll provide some support to the Emergency Operations Centre in terms of deciding if we need to go farther than that and what the plans may be for that,” said Larivee.

Whether other temporary housing will be needed – like mobile homes on available land – will be determined once the number of people moving back to Fort McMurray is known.

The province has established a Wildfire Evacuation Transitional Accommodation Benefit to provide coverage for 90 days from evacuation for residents with no homes and without sufficient insurance.

On Wednesday, Premier Rachel Notley announced phased-in return to Fort McMurray, which would tentatively begin June 1. Returning to the community in early June will be voluntary, she said, as only basic services will be available.

Scott Long, executive director operations Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said residents will not be left on their own once they return to the community. They will receive packages outlining what the need to be aware of once entering their homes and welcoming centres will be set up in each neighbourhood.

“A lot of these details are being worked … as part of the re-entry planning,” said Long.

The Fort McMurray wildfire has now claimed 505,645 hectares and has crossed into Saskatchewan. Alberta and Saskatchewan firefighters are working closely together, said Chad Morrison, senior manager with Alberta wildfire prevention. He noted that the size of this fire equalled the total amount of hectares burned in the 2015 fire season in Alberta.