The Alberta government is paying tribute to first responders who battled and dealt with the Fort McMurray wildfire.
The province is naming the bridge that crosses Highway 63, which goes through the town, as “Responders Way.”
The fire in May forced almost 90,000 people to flee the region and destroyed more than 1,900 structures.
When the first batch of residents were allowed back about a month later, first responders stood on the bridge over the highway to welcome them home.
Melissa Blake, mayor of the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes the city of Fort McMurray, says they are delighted with the tribute.
Premier Rachel Notley, who was in Fort McMurray on Wednesday to make the announcement, says people will think of what the first responders did every time they cross the bridge or drive under it.
“First responders, during the Wood Buffalo fire, absolutely made the difference. They made the difference between safety and danger, they made the difference between chaos and order, and certainly, in many, many cases, they made the difference between life and death,” said Notley.
“They dedicated themselves without thinking. All of you did, you just went out and you did your work, and you worked and you worked for hours and hours and days and days and I remember coming up here and seeing people who hadn’t gone home for days, they were just working and working, even knowing that their home wasn’t even there.”
Notley made several stops in the community on Wednesday, including spending time at Westwood High School with students in Grades 10, 11, and 12, all of whom had lost their home in the fire.
She also visited the very first home site to get a rebuild permit after the fire. The home is nearly completed.
Erin O'Neill, Wood Buffalo recovery branch lead, said in the Thickwood neighbourhood alone there were a total of 178 homes lost. She said so far 41 rebuild permits have been issued in Wood Buffalo and across the region 229 rebuild permits have been issued.
Some Fort McMurray residents have expressed anger over red tape and the slow pace of insurance payouts.
(CJOK, The Canadian Press)