Fort McMurray mayor doesn’t foresee big population shift after wildfire

No big post-fire population shift: Fort McMurray mayor

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake says she’s not expecting last May’s wildfire to have much of an impact on the Fort McMurray area’s long-term population.

Before the fire, the municipality was expecting growth of between one and three per cent over the next five years and Blake said Wednesday she’s not expecting that to shift much.

The downturn in oil prices and resulting layoffs had already caused the population to shrink in the oilsands region after years of breakneck growth during boom times.

“The economy has changed. Investment has diminished,” said Blake. “It’s a very different, more stable environment that we’re operating in.” 

In the near term, while some residents may have not come back since the fire, others are being attracted by a surge in construction activity as homes are rebuilt.

“I think over a longer horizon we’re going to come out just net-even if you will,” said Blake.

The city estimates a current population of about 73,500 — not far off from 2016’s pre-fire federal census numbers, the mayor said.

In 2015, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said it had a permanent population of almost 82,000 and a transient worker population of more than 43,000.

On May 3, it will have been a year since a ferocious wildfire spread into Fort McMurray and forced everyone out of the northern Alberta city. Nearly 2,600 dwellings were destroyed.

Most of the damaged areas are busy with construction and 33 families were back in their homes as of early April.

“I think that we’re making some really good progress, but for every day that we have people that are not where they want to be, it feels like it’s not fast enough,” said Blake.

Jody Butz, the municipality’s new fire chief, said there has been little turnover in the department since the fire and they have had no trouble recruiting eight new members.

The new recruits are training now and start their jobs on Monday.

“I think that the wildfire last year maybe put our department in, I guess, a bit of a spotlight and I’m encouraged with those results.”

 

 

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Tuesday.

Just Posted

Vancouver Island leads nation in medically assisted deaths

Island residents choose assisted death five times more than other Canadians

Greater Victoria municipalities will consider at least seven applications for private pot stores

Victoria will eventually consider six applications, while Sooke will consider one

New Victoria ReStore location opens Oct. 27

New Tillicum location helps bargain hunters and Habitat for Humanity

Sewage leak closes sterilizing room at Victoria General Hospital

Royal Jubilee equipment sharing means no VGH surgeries cancelled

Saanich homeless campers ‘apprehensive’ about pending police action

No police are currently on site after provincial government issued notice of eviction

VIDEO: 41 years later, author publishes story he wrote at 6 years old

Troy Wilson originally created Captain Otter while in Grade 1

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

A B.C. campaign to give municipalities input into marijuana advertising

Without a say, towns and cities risk Washington-State-style flood of advertising, proponent says

Defence cautions against mob justice in Calgary child neglect trial

Jennifer and Jeromie Clark of Calgary have pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death

Feds eyeing options to expedite pardons for minor pot convictions

Internal discussions have focused on an application-based process for speeding up pot pardons

Robert Barron column: Glad straps no longer used in schools

You would have to hold out your hands, palms up to expose the most sensitive parts

Island pot smokers won’t be allowed to light up on the ski hill

Mount Washington maintains smoke-free policy in light of marijuana legalization

U.S. pot firms urge Trump to dominate North American marijuana industry

Cannabis producers claim the U.S. is “rapidly losing” its competitive advantage to Canada

Most Read