Photo gallery: Justin Trudeau tours Fort McMurray

Canada has yet to grasp ‘amazing’ work that saved Fort McMurray, Prime Minister says


FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Justin Trudeau says Canadians have yet to grasp the scope of what happened in Fort McMurray and the lengths firefighters went to in saving almost 90 per cent of the city.

The prime minister was in northern Alberta on Friday and toured blackened, ash-filled neighbourhoods where many of the 2,400 buildings that were destroyed by a wildfire last week once stood.

The devastation was apparent but what stuck with him, he said, was how much was still standing — the airport, the downtown, the hospital.

“I don’t think Canadians yet understand what happened. They know there was a fire. They’re beginning to hear the wonderful news that so much of the town was saved,” he told 150 firefighters and first responders after an aerial tour by military helicopter.

“They don’t yet understand that that wasn’t a fluke of wind or rain or luck that happened. This was the extraordinary response by people such as yourself. The work you did to save so much of this community … was unbelievable.”

The disparity between what was destroyed and what was saved was striking, he said.

“The idea that there were firefighters rushing toward that blaze as the entire world must have seemed on fire is amazing,” he told reporters afterward. “And then you notice a downtown core that, other than being oddly deserted and immobile, is largely untouched. Then you notice neighbourhoods that stand.”

The federal government has promised to match donations made by individuals to the Canadian Red Cross. So far the charity has raised $86 million for fire recovery.

The prime minister had no new dollar commitments beyond that Friday, but gave assurances that the government will be there as the oilsands city recovers and rebuilds.

“Yes, there will be significant federal moneys invested in that community as we rebuild, but we are just beginning to understand the scale and the scoop of the problem,” he said. “The federal government will have Albertans’ back in the coming months and years.”

More than 80,000 residents had to evacuate their homes May 3 as flames carved their destructive path. Officials have said more than 2,400 homes and other structures were destroyed and another 530 were damaged, but 25,000 were saved.

Trudeau shook hands during the trip with the man who led the fight against the fierce fire and was presented with his own Fort McMurray fire jacket by Chief Darby Allen.

Allen said having the prime minister visit was a morale boost.

“Right now the residents aren’t there, but there are hundreds and hundreds of emergency workers. I think they’ll get a lift from that,” he said.

“We’ve been working hard for the last two or three days on this re-entry plan (for residents). We’ve got a few challenges around that.”

Melissa Blake, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, was also present. Blake said it was critical for Trudeau to tour the burned neighbourhoods.

“I’m personally very appreciative that he’s coming in to survey it first hand, because once you see it, you know just how daunting the work will be, but how important it is to make it back to what it was before,” she said.

As Trudeau toured burned-out neighbourhoods, he often stopped to pick up bits of melted debris or look inside smashed-out windows of burned cars and trucks.

At one point, he paused over a pink child’s scooter that had been left untouched by the flames.

Officials asked him if they should move it, but the prime minister said no, the owner should be the one who comes back to find it.

“Law of minimal intervention,” he said.

He recounted that moment later.

“The one thing that I realized is, unlike so many images we see around the world, that little plastic scooter — whatever little boy or girl was using that just before the evacuation, they’re safe. They’re alive.”

“Yes, this was a terrible disaster to befall this community, but at the same time there is hope, there is strength, there is a will and there is the capacity to rebuild.”


Photo gallery: Justin Trudeau tours Fort McMurray

    • That little tickle in your throat Malcolm? Cancer, buddy. Enjoy. lol!

  1. At least Justine showed more concern than his old man did about the West.

  2. He should have stayed home and helped poor Sophie with her overwhelming scheduling issues!!
    But then he would have missed the opportunity for more selfies.

  3. He doesn’t think Canadians understand what has happened – I can’t believe he would make a statement like that.
    How can we not understand – we understand all too well what has happened.

    • That is the manifestation of a very simple mind-HE didn’t understand!! He also said that it wasn’t “a fluke” that they managed it. Duh!!!!

  4. Funny how the fire chief of Fort McMurray – the man who led the effort, directed the people on the ground – disagrees entirely with the narrow-minded, small-thinker, Internet Experts who are posting comments here.

    The chief is grateful for the high-level recognition of his team. But the Internet Experts look for reasons to throw mud. Pathetic.

    • I don’t recall the fire chief-a VERY competent leader-say that Canadians didn’t understand what happened nor did they ever believe it was a fluke that it was brought under control. That was the man child’s simple, distorted beliefs. He has said that he doesn’t read papers or watch the news but has staff who fill him in. I guess Butts doesn’t watch the news either.
      I’m not an Internet Expert, I just have no time for a narcissistic, shallow P.M.

      • That’s great, Jerome, because we don’t have a narcissistic, shallow PM, just narcissistic, shallow armchair commentators like yourself.

        • Arcticalison Your reply Jerome has the liberal stamp of ignoring the article and the situation. Justin shows up late Makes stupid remarks and creates his own photo ops. The officials have to kowtow if the want some cash but you obviously would never notice that.
          Why don’t you look at real prime ministers and see how they react to situations and then compare to this useless twit.

          • So Robert, because you don’t like liberals that means I have ignored the article – that makes a lot of sense. You seem to know a lot about how I think, so how about guessing what i think about people who denigrate those they disagree with. I may attack someone’s argument, but I would never attack the person.
            As far as I am aware, all our Prime minsters have been real prime ministers, is there any other kind? Or do you alone get to set the criteria for reality. Must be hard being right all the time.

          • Robertvan:

            “Justin shows up late”, you say.

            Would it have made more sense to you to have Trudeau dropped from a military helicopter right into the blaze? Would that have been timely enough for you? Of course it would have been sheer nonsense for our Prime Minister to show up in the middle of the crisis. And you’re probably disappointed that Trudeau had the good sense to wait to make sure he wouldn’t impede the valliant efforts of fire fighters. Otherwise, you might have had a legitimate complaint.

  5. Oh great the moron now wants to match our contributions with our own tax money!

  6. So where was the massive entourage that everyone assumed he would take with him? The hair stylist, the security detail, the umbrella holder. The teleprompter operator.
    Seems our PM just went for a simple visit with the folk that matter. The premier, the Fire Chief, the mayor, and all the first responders. Good for all of them.

    • Arcti,
      I guess you don’t read The Globe-he had 22 people with him!! But that’s less than the 54 he took to Obama’s dinner!! So he’s definitely improving (-:)

      • I don’t believe his mother or in-laws, Sophie and the kids would appreciate three days in Fort Mac. I am really disappointed that Rachel Notley has given herself so many pats on the back when she 1)partied in a bar to celebrate the year anniversary of her becoming premier when the fire was raging 2) called Brian Jean (leader of the opposition Wildrose and MLA for Fort Mac a “fear monger” when he warned the fires were near the town. and 3) turned away the offer of a large water bomber from BC. Not to mention that she cut the fire fighting budget from 500 million to 75 million. Meanwhile Brian Jean acknowledged the anniversary of his young son’s death from cancer and watched his house burn. He has been living in a tent in the area. He has been a constant at shelters but not a word of praise for him. Partisanship is ridiculous. Truth is rarely revealed. I donated my contribution to the Red Cross to ensure that JT would have to give a share of my taxpayer dollars to Fort Mac. I am not entirely confident it will be forthcoming.

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