Fort McMurray market will feel the effects for years

by Justin da Rosa11 May 2016
The impact of the Fort McMurray wildfire will be felt for years, according to one industry professional whose clients are still dealing with the fallout from the Slave Lake fires that occurred in 2011.

“There is the shock-and-awe moment, which we’re living right now, and then there’s that next [phase] which happens a month later where the long tail over recovery starts,” Peter O'Neill, chief operating officer at mortgage lender Bridgewater Bank, told REP. “We’re still dealing in Alberta with some of the folks impacted by the Slave Lake fire.”

The fire has so far totalled 2,400 buildings and burned across 570,000 acres. Large swaths of neighbourhoods and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

One Bank of Montreal analyst estimates total insurance losses will total $9.4 billion.

Even after the fire has been eradicated, homeowners will continue to face uphill battles.

“It’s an unfortunate reality, but we tend to think in terms of absolute loss; so they think, well, my house is burned (down) and gone completely, well if you have fire insurance and you make the claim they’ll get the rebuilding process and the bank will work with you to extend your payments and all that. But that’s one thing,” O’Neill said. “The other is what if they have lost their job as well? Many of the big oil companies are clawing back or shutting down completely.

“Well, there are a lot of people who suddenly don’t have a job, a home, but they do have debts.”

The rebuild of the town will take years, according to O’Neill.

“There are going to be people in this world for a very long time,” O’Neill said.

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