Thousands of Fort McMurray evacuees take part in telephone town halls

EDMONTON -- On Monday evening, thousands of Fort McMurray evacuees will receive a phone call.

EDMONTON — On Monday evening, thousands of Fort McMurray evacuees will receive a phone call.

The voice they’ll hear will invite them to participate in a massive telephone town hall, where for an hour-and-a-half they’ll get to hear the latest information and ask questions about the wildfire that forced them from their homes, as well as the condition of their neighbourhoods, financial assistance and predictions for when they’ll be allowed to return to their city.

The Alberta government says over 15,000 took part in the first town hall session that was held last Monday night and the numbers have continued to remain high as more were held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

“We set up these telephone town halls in order to provide you with as much information as we can in an unfiltered way,” Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said at the beginning of the first session a week ago.

There are other ways the province is helping evacuees to get a sense of what they’ll be coming home to.

The Alberta government has released an app with maps that are intended to provide a high-level satellite overview of the status of the city following the devastating fires, and daily updates are posted on the web.

In announcing the app, Larivee said that having been through a devastating fire and evacuation herself five years ago in Slave Lake, she knows how stressful it can be to wait for updates on which homes have been lost.

The town hall sessions have the feel of a news conference, but instead of reporters asking the questions, it’s the residents of Fort McMurray.

To get the invitation call for the town halls, evacuees must have registered their phone numbers with the Red Cross, but they can also participate by phoning in themselves or listening in online.

One caller on Thursday night said her home was very close to the fire line and worried that if it had water damage, it might cause more problems if officials turn the electricity back on.

Another caller said he’d heard reports on social media that there had been looting in Fort McMurray.

“I’m just curious about what steps you’re taking to secure everyone’s homes?” the caller, identified as Grant, asked.

There was even a poll during the town hall asking whether people had been to one of the province’s debit card distribution centres yet, and participants were able to respond on their phone keypads.

John Archer, a government spokesman, said the town halls were put together because even though there were numerous daily news conference and government updates, it didn’t seem to be enough.

“There would continue to be comments from the evacuees: ‘We just want more information. We want more information. We wish we had more information,”‘ Archer said.

Archer said there may be more telephone town halls as the week continues.

The question that’s on every evacuees’ mind was submitted online by woman identified as Grace during Thursday’s town hall.

She wondered if evacuees will get to go home this month.

“No promises on that one,” Larivee answered. “We will let you know as soon as possible.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

Most Read