4 June 2016 Laura England

Mike Mitton is one of our Senior Field Party Chiefs and he is on location in Fort McMurray as part of our relief efforts after one of the greatest fires in recorded Canadian history affecting such a large urban environment. As part of the area re-establishment needs, Opus was retained by Telus to perform a number of projects. First Opus was tasked with surveying and flagging the property line boundary along Hughes Avenue in the Waterways Subdivision.

In addition to the boundary work, we also need to locate all the buried utilities including pipeline crossings. This work is very high priority as there is a need to bulldoze the area and install new utilities to surviving buildings and dwellings. While working in what was deemed an official danger area for air contaminants (from the dust and ash suppressant chemical sprayed on the burned out areas) Mike had to wear specialized PPE (Half Mask respirator with P100 filters, Tyvek body suit, gloves, and dust goggles. Also his legs and wrists were taped up to avoid particles entering the suit. Here is picture of Mike in all his PPE gear to give you an idea of the conditions he is working in.

Mike relays his last couple days….

"I woke up early Tuesday morning, kissed my sleeping kids goodbye, packed my truck  and left my home. I set out to Fort McMurray fully expecting a long and stressful day, having issues entering town and any number of other problems including accessing our company owned trailer. I thought I may even have to sleep in the truck for the night if need be. I took cases of water and food rations in preparation.

As I drove up a relatively empty highway I thought about all the citizens of Fort McMurray and what they were going to come home to, if in fact they would have anything to come home to at all. I imagined all the devastation and destruction the fire had caused. My assumptions were correct. It is horrible. The homes, businesses, and forest destroyed in the fire is on an unbelievable scale. Here are some pictures I captured in the areas where we are working.

But my worry for the people became less and less as I got into town and saw who was either still there or who had arrived before me. There were Police, Firefighters, EMTs, Red Cross, MD of Wood Buffalo employees, etc. I realized that Home isn’t necessarily an object. It’s a community and with the unbelievable amount of support and goodwill this community is offering its people, I think they will be OK. No one will be left out, no one will go hungry, no one will not have a roof over their head, and a mattress to sleep on. This is the way it should be everyday of our lives. Caring for people.

Fort McMurray will without a doubt, be better than ever."

Our collective thoughts are with all the residents who have returned or will be returning soon. It’s hard to imagine what you are going though when coming back into this region without a good sense of what you’re going to find since your evacuation a mere ~3 weeks ago. We wish Mike, his crew and all the personnel involved in getting Fort McMurray back up and running all the best and please stay safe.

Pat McNally

Manager – Communications and Corporate Technical Development, Manager – Facilities | Opus Stewart Weir