FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – Residents of three neighbourhoods most badly damaged by a Fort McMurray wildfire are expected to get a look at their homes — or what’s left of them — today.
People whose homes were destroyed will be allowed back, but they’ll have to be escorted by a disaster response unit.
Those whose homes are still standing can return to check on their properties and grab belongings, but they won’t be able to stay.
That’s because toxic ash from the powerful fire poses a safety hazard.
Andrew Wilcox from a local rock radio station says it’s frustrating, but he understands why authorities won’t let him back into his home for good — even though it’s intact.
He says he plans to be there right at 8 a.m. when residents are allowed through security gates, so that he can retrieve sentimental items such as his mother’s old radio and his grandfather’s desk.
He’s also looking forward to being reunited with his standup paddleboard and motorcycle — things he worked hard to buy and that bring him joy.
“I’m one of the lucky ones — I know that,” the program director for 100.5 Cruz FM said on the weekend. “The house that I lived in is there. It’s standing. It has four walls.
“I got a good amount of the things that I truly care about out of there during the evacuation. And anything that I really love as well, it should still be there.”
Wilcox can put himself in the shoes of those returning to piles of rubble. He lost everything in an Edmonton apartment fire more than a decade ago.
Just two weeks before the wildfire called “the beast” forced everyone to flee Fort McMurray, Wilcox was looking for a Gordon Lightfoot record that burned in the apartment fire.
“You’ll always play the game — ‘Oh where’s that? Do I still have that? Oh, it’s gone,'” he said.
“For everybody that lost stuff in Fort McMurray, that moment’s going to happen for them for the rest of their lives. But it gets less and less and less and less as time goes on.”