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Fort Mac Residents Returning Home Will See These Powerful Messages Welcoming Them Back


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The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has installed a series of billboards along Highway 63, starting at Airport Road. Each has a special message for returning residents who had to flee the city on May 3.

"We wanted people to come back to see their strength reflected in the community they were living in," said Robin Smith, press secretary for the region. "We want our residents to know how proud we are of them."

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Smith told BuzzFeed Canada that Fort McMurray is an "incredibly unique community" — both a major economic hub for Canada and a place with a small-town feel.

"Throughout this very tragic experience, we see so many people who are just ready to come back and help each other," he said. "People have stuck together like you wouldn’t believe, and not just people from Fort McMurray — people from all across Alberta, people all across Canada."

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Some of the phrases were inspired by Fort McMurry residents themselves," said Smith.

"We are here, we are strong" was a catchphrase of Fort McMurray regional fire chief Darby Allan and inspired emergency responders as they stayed behind.

"Safe, resilient, together," was a phrase used by Bob Couture, director of emergency management, "because that’s what describes our community best we think," said Smith.

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

They also include the hashtag #ymmstrong, which residents have been using on social media as a show of strength and support.

Residents will be allowed back into the city in batches, starting on Wednesday. They'll also be greeted by flags around the city with the same messages.

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Smith said he expects many of those returning will come to assess damage and grab some items from their homes before leaving again as the city rebuilds.

Info centres, gas bars, washrooms, as well as food and water will be made available for returning evacuees. Organizations like the Red Cross and Samaritan's Purse Canada and mental health workers will also be present. More information about re-entry can be found on the region's website.