Fort McMurray, Alta. is again in recovery mode after flooding on the Athabasca River forced the mandatory evacuation of 13,000 residents. The evacuees are now slowly returning to homes with no power or utilities and facing boil water orders in effect until September. The community has sustained damages that already exceed $100 million.
Colin Hartigan, broker/owner of Coldwell Banker Fort McMurray, is well experienced with natural disasters, having earned the Coldwell Banker Hero of the Year award for his leadership when the Alberta Wildfire forced the largest evacuation in Canadian history just four years ago.
During the flood efforts, Hartigan and several members of his team became involved in a wide variety of volunteer efforts. Rather than organizing one collective company effort, team members were free to choose their level of involvement and what activity was right for them in these times of social distancing. Volunteers helped with finding temporary housing for thousands of evacuees, helping at the food bank, clearing out flood-damaged properties and delivering supplies.
Hartigan worked shoulder-to-shoulder with other volunteers during 48 hours of sand-bagging in an effort to protect the local hospital. The emergency conditions made keeping a safe distance a challenge, but their efforts paid off. Hartigan reports that 10 days after volunteering on the sandbag line, there was no bump in new COVID cases.
While dealing with a natural disaster during a pandemic, he reports that there were still a number of positive outcomes to offer some welcome relief. A new spirit of co-operation was forged by providing assistance to a competitor brokerage that was displaced by the flood. There’s also been renewed interest in the brokerage’s #weloveymm social media campaign, which is finding new followers in troubled times, the company says.
“Fort McMurray is a very resilient community and we’re already seeing signs of recovery,” Hartigan says. “The damage is extensive, we’re already at 75 per cent of the level seen during the wildfires. But there are also signs of good things ahead, and we’re sharing that message in everything we do.”