Some Fort McMurray residents will tentatively be able to start coming home as of June 1st.
Premier Rachel Notley says it will be a voluntary, phased in process that will only start if conditions set out for a safe re-entry are met.
“And it’s a balancing act. We don’t want to have people completely commit to a certain date, but at the same time we’ve been hearing more and more that people need to have some idea of the dates that we’re dealing with, and so we hope we’ve achieved that balance.”
People who live in the least-damaged areas of the region will be allowed to return home first. Those include the downtown, Anzac and First Nations communities.
The announcement comes one day after Notley said they’d have to give the re-entry plan another look due to two explosions in the city and extreme air quality levels.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean lost his home in the fire, but says it’s a relief to have a timeline.
“I know and understand that people in Fort McMurray, my citizens, my family, my friends are going through a lot of anxiety, a lot of grief, anguish, and many other feelings. They are tired, stressed, and waiting to hear this news, and I thank the premier for it.”
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If the wildfire is no longer an imminent threat to the community, critical infrastructure, essential services are restored, and hazardous areas are secure, then people can begin heading back.
Local government must also be re-established.
Notley asks those returning to make sure they’re prepared with essentials like prescriptions, food and water, coolers and appropriate clothing.
People who could be affected by the poor air quality are asked to wait.