Almost a year after a wildfire devastated Fort McMurray, Alta., the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) says Canadian Anglicans have donated more then $200,000 toward relief, as residents struggle to put their lives back together.
On May 6, 2016, as the fire ripped through the city on its third day, PWRDF announced an initial grant of $15,000 to the diocese of Athabasca, which includes Fort McMurray.
It also began accepting donations for relief efforts for the roughly 80,000 people displaced from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. According to news reports, the fire destroyed 2,400 buildings, or around 10% of the city, and could have caused as much as $3.58 billion in damage.
Almost a year later, many residents have returned to Fort McMurray. But while life is “slowly getting back to normal,” according to Tara Munn, outgoing PWRDF liaison and secretary of the Fort McMurray Fire Relief Steering Committee, many are still in limbo.
In an update posted on the PWRDF website, Munn, a Fort McMurray resident who did not lose her home, noted that some homes have been rebuilt, but many families are still renting space or going through the time-consuming process of claiming insurance.
The problem is complicated by extensive flooding that has affected several neighbourhoods in Fort McMurray. The flooding has led to a moratorium on new construction in some parts of the Waterways neighbourhood, which means even residents who received insurance for the loss of their homes may not be able to rebuild on their property.
For some, the challenges of rebuilding a life in Fort McMurray are simply not worth it.
Munn reports that some of the 12 families at All Saints’ Anglican Church (one of Fort McMurray’s two Anglican churches) who lost their homes have opted not to return to a city that was struggling with a slowing economy even before the wildfire.
“The population base has decreased,” Munn said. “Many social agencies [that] were stressed before due to downsizing of the local economy are now dealing with a staff decrease. Businesses are feeling it, too. It’s noticeably quieter.”
Money donated to PWRDF has been used to supplement rent for those waiting for repairs on their homes and apartments to be completed, to purchase teaching materials for local schools and to help cover costs of a conference, held in March, that dealt with how to recover following a traumatic event, according to the PWRDF.