Six months after the forest fires that ravaged the area of Fort McMurray, the rebuild of the area has been slowed down by delays that mean many are nowhere near getting back into their homes.
Resident Trevor Rowsell saw the house that he and his wife were raising their son in turned to rubble when the disaster struck back in May.
Now, he is helping with construction work on both his own home and his neighbour’s home, part of the rebuild that is slowly beginning to take shape in the area, he told CBC News.
“There has been a lot of frustrations going through this process, but I am happy to be here today,” said Rowsell, who puts in shifts of two weeks on and one week off to work on the houses, meaning he is often separated from his wife and son for long periods of time.
Rebuilding permits have been issued for just 10% of the 2,400 homes ruined by the disaster, according to the report.
Rowsell had thought his home would be rebuilt by now, but says there were delays in the clean up, due to approximately 500,000 tonnes of ash, concrete and steel that had to removed from the area, as well as the slow process of completing paperwork.
The municipality also had concerns over soil contamination, which it says means the start of the rebuild was further delayed.
“There is so much that we had to figure out so that we could serve people again with safety at the forefront,” said Melissa Blake, the mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada puts the total of insured damages from the disaster at $3.77 billion, and has said that 20,000 of the 44,000 claims made in the area after the fire have been closed – meaning many residents are still waiting.
Rowsell said he had no problems in dealing with his insurance company, but that not everyone has had the same experience.
“Seeing the emotions on the homeowners faces ... it is really hard to take it in stride,” he said. “I know people whose [old] foundations are still in the ground.”
But the rebuild is getting there slowly but surely – Rowsell said he expects to have his house up in the next week or so, though his family are unlikely to be able to move in until early next year.
“It really makes you emotional to be able to look at it from six months ago, from what was left until now,” he said.
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