Updates from Fort McMurray
May 16, 2017
It’s been a year since the Fort McMurray fires of 2016, and the Canadian Builders team has been heavily involved in rebuilding the many building destroyed by the flames. Although the fires were devastating, the resilient community has pulled together and remains strong. To read about the rebuilding effort that Canadian Builders is proud to be a part of, follow the links below to see some recent news articles.
The Canadian Press – “One year later: Fort McMurray wildfire and rebuild by the numbers” (April 27, 2017)
The Canadian Press – “Reconstruction effort 'really starting to motor' in Fort McMurray” (Ian Bickis; April 30, 2017)
Fort McMurray Today – “As forest rebounds, conditions for second devastating fire almost two decades away” (Vincent McDermott; May 11, 2017)
Highlights from July 12, 2016 Council Meeting
Written by Ken Miller – July 19, 2016
The Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee made the following recommendation:
• That Administration be directed to submit a request to the Government of Alberta for interim, pet-friendly housing units with three or more bedrooms to be made available to residents affected by the wildfire.
• That all associated costs be included in the Municipality’s request for funding from the Government of Alberta’s Disaster Recovery Fund to compensate for extraordinary costs arising from the wild fire.
Interim housing serves as a bridge for residents requiring accommodations between the time of re-entry to the region and when their destroyed or damaged homes can be occupied or rebuilt. Considering the experiences of the 2011 Slave Lake wildfire, this type of housing is expected to be needed for up to three years. Based on current information, the existing rental units available in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo will not meet demand; transitional units that have three or more bedrooms and are pet-friendly would fill the gap.
SPECS Chooses Fort McMurray First Nation as Prime Cleanup Contractor
Post-loss consulting firm SPECS Ltd. has selected the Fort McMurray First Nation #468 as the primary contractor for the massive demolition and cleanup operations of Abasand, Waterways and Beacon Hill.
The band-owned Christina River Construction Ltd. was chosen out of more than a dozen candidates to act as the lead and organizer. The company has worked in the region since 1987.
The announcement was posted to the First Nation's Facebook page Friday morning. It comes after weeks of tension among contractors and residents eager to see cleanup and recovery work going to local employers.
“We have no illusions about the magnitude of the job that lies ahead,” Chief Ron Kreutzer said in a statement. “FMFN 468 is both extremely honoured and proud to have been provided the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to and support the reconstruction and recovery efforts.”
The Bouchier Group of Companies and McMurray Métis Group were two other indigenous-operated local companies considered by SPECS. Other local contractors considered included R. Ex Contracting and Heavy North.
The remaining bidders had presences across Alberta and in Fort McMurray. They included Summit Civils, Centrefire, Secure Energy Stoney Mountain, DNG Alberta, McColman & Sons Demolition, Site Energy and Waste Management of Canada, Renegade Gas & Oilfield Services Ltd., Thompson Bros, Rock Hard Excavating Ltd. and Heavy Metal Equipment.
To be considered for the prime contractor shortlist, applicants had to meet four basic criteria. They had to have at least 30 excavators able to be on the ground working at the same time. They needed sufficient trucks to support the hauling of the debris those excavators gather.
They also needed to be able to manage eight sites at the same time, which could extend from a few homes as one site to an entire neighbourhood as another site. Finally, they needed a minimum bond of at least $10 million.
The SPECS-organized demolition and cleanup bidding process has been the source of much frustration among some local residents and contractors.
SPECS was hired by insurers to organize and oversee a single-contractor bidding process. The idea is that having one company direct the work means less confusion than having dozens of contractors employed separately. It also means the demolitions will cost homeowners less due to economies of scale.
However, some local contractors felt the prerequisites for the bidding process were too steep and would leave them sidelined from the selection process.
Homeowners still have final say on whether they choose the SPECS-selected contractor or hire a contractor outside the SPECS process.
Despite the controversy, Kreutzer's statement was optimistic; arguing that being awarded this job proves their community is ready to take on a greater role in the post-fire recovery process.
“We are confident that the Mass Demolition Project is only the first example of our Nation’s ability to contribute to this process.”
Tree Canada Commits to Urban Replanting
After visiting the scorched areas of the Wood Buffalo region, Tree Canada is now committed to helping Fort McMurray rejuvenate its urban foliage.
Following a helicopter tour of the area on July 14, Tree Canada president Michael Rosen met with local city officials like mayor Melissa Blake and urban forestry planner Stephen Fudge to discuss how best to go about replanting the 10,000 urban trees that the city lost during the Alberta wildfire.
“Fire is a natural part of the Boreal forest, so it regenerates naturally quite well,” said Rosen, explaining why they won’t be replanting trees in rural areas. “So we’re looking more at people’s residences, like the 2000-plus homes that actually burnt. We’re trying to give them that sense of normalcy when they
finally come back and build their new homes.”
While most of their replanting efforts will be concentrated on the urban tree cover of Fort McMurray, their operation could extend to hamlets like Anzac as well.
The specifics of what this national non-profit organization is calling “Operation ReLeaf-Fort McMurray” still needs to be worked out with the municipality, but for now Tree Canada is focused on the fundraising that will make this project possible.
“We’ll be coming back in September to announce how much has been raised and where we’re at,” said Rosen, who will be seeking corporate sponsorships in addition to individual donations from everyday Canadians. “And then we’ll work with the municipality throughout the fall to look at what are the priority projects that we can look at funding for 2017.”
Active tree planting likely won’t start until at least the spring of 2017, Rosen said.
As wildfire manager for the Alberta government, Bernie Schmitte says that safety is one of the biggest things that Tree Canada will have to take into account for “Operation ReLeaf.”
“The challenges they’re going to have to face are finding the areas to replant,” said Schmitte, who also met with Rosen for his July 14 visit. “[The replant] may not happen for a couple years so you’re still going to have quite a bit of standing dead trees, so there will be a safety factor as well.”
Having overseen urban replanting projects following natural disasters like the 2013 southern Alberta floods, Rosen says safety is always their top concern.
“There are thousands of those [dead trees] so that has to be dealt with sooner than later, before you think of planting new ones.”
According to Rosen, the goal of this campaign is to take this particular weight off the RMWB’s shoulders so that they can focus on more pressing matters of the rebuild.
“The priority is definitely getting the houses in the ground, getting people back to work, kids going back to their school, all that stuff,” he said. “Because the municipality… they’re flooded with all kinds of demands, so they’re very thankful that we’re able to sort of coordinate at least this piece of [the
For the time being, Rosen says that any organizations or individuals who want to help replant trees in the Wood Buffalo region can visit their official website and make a donation.
Stronger For It
Written by Ken Miller – July 17, 2016
Will we be stronger as a city? As families? As individuals? Well, that depends on each of us and how we cope with the circumstances in our lives. For those who have recently lost their homes and belongings in this fire, your loss is far greater than those of us who still have our homes. And what you are experiencing can only be imagined and not truly felt by most.
Around the world there are literally millions of people who suffer losses every day that are of this magnitude and far greater even. We hear about it in the news and yet we do not experience the grieving of those tragedies. People across the world have seen and heard of our tragedy but they do not experience the grieving.
People who have such experiences can only go in one of two directions; Move forward or give up. They will have only one of two points of view; Proactive or Reactive. They will only have one of two outcomes: self-preservation or self-destruction.
Which one are you? I sincerely hope for you, your family and everyone you influence, that you are the former and not the latter.
A person had written in his journal a story about his grandfather who was a wagon builder. ---When the old man cleared the land for cultivation, he always left a few oak trees in the middle of the field at the mercy of the elements, unsheltered by other trees in the forest. It was from those trees that his grandfather made the wagons’ wheels. Because they were forced to struggle against the fury of nature, they grew strong enough to bear the heaviest load. ---
Welcome difficult challenges, for the greatest opportunities will come from challenges that force you to expand your mind as you search for creative solutions. During life’s bleakest hours, take solace in the fact that you are strengthening yourself through struggles so that in the future you will be prepared to take on even greater challenges. Like the old oak tree, you grow strong only when you are forced to struggle.
Fort McMurray Local Custom Home Builders
A New Beginning
Written by Ken Miller – July 3, 2016
Have you ever heard someone say something like; “I gotta get outta here.” Or “I just need a new beginning”. Well, here in Fort McMurray this is just what we have: an opportunity to watch our beautiful city grow and as well, our surrounding Northern playground. But this time we won’t only see the new construction of our beautiful houses and other building structures, but also the sprouting of new life within our communities and all around us. And we
can watch it continue to grow for years to come.
Let us all be thankful and enjoy the process of rebuilding. So many have lost so much and I can only give you these words of
You are here at this place in your life right now. Finish your grieving process soon and clear your thoughts. Be proactive. Look for the good from this tragedy and you will find it. Things like,… a new direction, possible new acquaintances and friends, new homes, new possessions, the good nature of fellow human beings, and most importantly, all the opportunities you have to help and support others and to support each other…
A New Beginning.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA!!!
Written by Ken Miller – July 1, 2016
We are 149 years strong. Yeeeeehaaawwww!
Did you know that Canada is again ranked as the “most admired” country in the world? That’s right, 4 years of the past 6 years we have ranked #1. So, my fellow Canadians, let us celebrate “us” today because we are what Canada is.
I, for one, am grateful to be a part of our country. I am so appreciative of my fellow Canadians who have extended their kind and generous support to us in Fort McMurray way out here in the Boreal forest of Northern Alberta. As well, thank you so much to the other countries that offered their support and to South Africa who dispatched 301 firefighters to help us. We thank you all so very much.
We trust that in return we will continue, for many years to come, to be a vital contributor to our Country’s National economic strength. We’ve been knocked down on a few occasions but we always get up again. And I believe that this time will be no different.
Happy Birthday Canada!
Proviso to Bylaw 16/011
Written by Ken Miller – June 29, 2016
To all affected Fort McMurray Residents and Business Owners. There was an important proviso to Bylaw 16/011. I have pasted two sections from the June 28, 2016 Council meeting agenda showing the changes. This is a FANTASTIC change that is in favor of all affected residents and business owners.
In short my friends, the introduction of the 90-day Moratorium on June 14, 2016 council meeting was changed. It is no longer set at 90 days. Rather, its end will be directly linked to when the Chief Medical Officer of Health of the Province of Alberta declares in writing that the Affected Areas are safe for human habitation. This means rebuilding could begin much sooner than the 90-day set term.
Fort McMurray News
Written by Ken Miller- June 24, 2016
We are rebuilding. We all have our opinions, frustrations and concerns both as residents and business. I have attended the June 14 & 21 council meetings via satellite. I, like most other residents and business owners have an opinion. My opinion may or may not be on the list of the majority which, at this time appears to be to the side of disappointment with our council member’s decision making. So then, we need to ask ourselves, “What do we do as a community to stand up and press for our suggestions to be implemented into the developing structure by council for rebuilding our city?”
Going to the council meetings doesn’t appear to be helping. It seems to me like residents & business owners are permitted to take time to voice their opinions, concerns & frustrations with the assumption that their input actually will make a difference. But does it? So far, from what I am seeing, the majorly important decisions that are being implemented and added to our bylaws and Rebuilding Programs are based on the decision of a handful of council members while the recommendations of residents and business owners are ignored.
How does a community come together to press council to implement changes that are in our favor as we see it rather than in theirs? This is the real kicker because it takes time and effort to take this kind of action. But we are like most Canadians who have one or more of the following attributes; • Complacent • Apathetic • Indifferent. If I examine myself I can honestly say that I see all three of these in me that fluctuate over time and under varying circumstances. And regarding this particular matter of developing and executing a plan to have our suggestions implemented, rather than the suggestions of few council members, my actions fall very short indeed. I can stand with the rest of the crowd, (And it is a vary huge crowd indeed) that spends a lot of time and energy being emotionally hijacked and simply voicing our concerns and mostly amongst ourselves at best.
Do you share my point of view or not? Let me know. And if there are enough of us who want to turn our words into “PRO ACTIVE” actions, then perhaps together we can make a plan that will result in a constructive outcome whereby our (Residents and businesses) points of view will be implemented into the Reclaim and Rebuild Plan for our City.
Yes,… This is our city and it does not belong only to members of council. Please don’t take me the wrong way, they are equally a part of the city, I’m just saying that these small few should not be making decisions based on their opinions rather than ours.
Fort McMurray Local Custom Home Builder
Current News Articles
Local businesses now have a centralized place to go for their resource and information needs, thanks to a new provincially-funded resource centre opening downtown.
The Back to Business Resource Centre will act as a portal for businesses to access government, business planning and office resources to assist them in returning to post-fire operations, a municipal press release said Tuesday. Located on the first floor at 9816 Hardin St., the centre offers shared office space as well as business specialists for support and guidance.
“We want to be there with owners and workers through the challenges ahead and this one-stop-shop will make it easier for them to get tools and support from local organizations who understand their unique needs,” Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous said in the press release.
The project is in partnership with the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce, Community Futures Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray Construction Association, the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association and the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
The Back to Business Resource Centre is coordinated by Wood Buffalo Economic Development.
“We want to thank the Government of Alberta for their generous support," Mayor Melissa Blake said in the release. “These funds will allow us to make sure our local business owners can get back to a new business as usual.”
The centre is part of the municipality’s Business and Economic Recovery Plan. More information can be found at choosewoodbuffalo.ca.
The Regional Emergency Operations Centre will give every Fort McMurray resident the opportunity to sift their fire-devastated properties, the municipality said in a press release Thursday evening.
Previously the municipality had given a June 19 deadline for residents to book a site-sifting appointment with Team Rubicon. After Rubicon starts demobilizing on June 24, a trained REOC-led team will take over.
“We acknowledge that the sifting program has not met residents’ expectations and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and frustration that this has caused,” Director of Emergency Management Bob Couture said in the release. “We have identified the internal challenges that resulted in us missing appointments and failing to return calls, and have taken the necessary steps to rectify the situation.”
Despite the extension, property sifting services will not be offered past July 1, the release said.
About 700 properties have been sifted to date. REOC staff will be contacting all residents who lost their homes to the wildfire, the release said.
Residents can book property sifting appointments by calling PULSE at 780-743-7000.
Reality television star and renowned home improvement specialist Mike Holmes will fly into Fort McMurray on Friday to put on a free information session for members of the community.
The event officially begins at 3 P.M. at Shell Place with opening remarks by Holmes and his team of building partners from Holmes Approved Homes. This will be followed up by a one-hour public forum starting at 3:30 PM, where members of the community will be able to ask questions and open up about how they were affected by the recent wildfire.
Before the event takes place, Holmes and his crew will tour Beacon Hill in order to get a better sense of the challenges that the community is currently facing. They will also make a stop at Fire Hall #1 on Tolen Drive to meet with first responders before heading to Shell Place.
Holmes is no stranger to rebuilding in a disaster zone, having aired a television mini-series in 2009 that detailed his efforts to reconstruct a house in New
Orleans that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
While there are no current plans to televise anything similar in Fort McMurray, Holmes still voiced his enthusiasm about this event on his Facebook page, saying that “I want to hear more of your stories and offer my advice and support to ensure your rebuild is done right.”
Update for Wood Buffalo Primary Care Network
Written by Ken Miller – June 23, 2016
Click on the link below for an update of the Wood Buffalo Primary Care Network.
Canadian Builders: Local Fort McMurray Custom Home Builder.
Fort McMurray Has A Pulse!
Written by Ken Miller – June 18, 2016
What else can go wrong? What's the worst that could happen? DON'T EVEN ASK!!! We don't want to know and we don't care!! We have seen and had our share of challenges here in Fort McMurray. So, do NOT, I beg you even ask such questions. And after we have gone through our rehabilitation process and are once again back in the "Economic Game" as strong as or perhaps even better than ever, please, let's remind each other not to become so blind and arrogant and say really careless things like... "Not even God Himself can stop our progress.” Let's be mindful of the great historical event of the Titanic and the bold remarks of some of the crew and perhaps even the captain... "Not even God Himself could sink this ship". Sure, I know there is no actual proof with a signature or a recording that anyone actually really said this but there has been enough documented commentaries unearthed that suggest it to be true. The point is, as a community we have been humbled enough times so let's take a hold of this most recent lesson and learn to remain humble and yet be proud of who and what we are without the arrogance. I believe it is the natural order of existence that arrogance will "Always" be put in its place.
Fort McMurray has had a lot of spankings since its birth back in 1947. I consider 1947 her birth as that is when Fort McMurray and Waterways amalgamated as the village of McMurray (the "Fort" was dropped until 1962, when it was restored to reflect its heritage and by coincidence is the year I was born) by 1947, and became a town a year later. As a community we have gone through many upward and downward swings in the economy and have battled Mother Nature from floods including ice jamming and other near call fires. "WE ARE STILL HERE --- MCMURRAY HAS A PULSE"
Let us rebuild our community and reclaim what is ours by law, by right and by God.