06/01/2016 11:49 EDT | Updated 06/02/2017 01:12 EDT

Alberta premier lauds courage in Fort McMurray, but says hard days still ahead

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says Fort McMurray residents will need every ounce of the courage they've already shown since a vicious wildfire tore through parts of their city.

Notley says many hard days still lie ahead as the community rebuilds and evacuees who are returning won't find a normal life waiting for them.

She says it will take years to recover from the wildfire that destroyed nearly one-tenth of the city, but promises the province will be there to help.

Notley was in Fort McMurray to welcome back the first of more than 80,000 people who had to flee when the fire hit May 3.

Returnees began streaming in this morning to check their homes and begin cleaning up.

Notley also thanked first responders as well as crews who have worked to get the city running again — including a bylaw officer who rescued a hamster weeks after the fire and called the animal's five-year-old owner with the good news.