STRONE Inc. is pleased to share the news that Fort McMurray International Airport opened on schedule on June 10 following a major cleanup project that started on May 31.
“When we heard about the fire and what it had done to the lives of thousands of people, we knew there was a place for STRONE in the recovery effort. We were approached by the airport’s insurer to get involved and we got down to planning immediately. Over half our employees volunteered to go to Fort McMurray but we knew we had to involve the local people affected by the fire – a small step to getting people back to work there” – Neil Blinco Co-CEO STRONE Inc.
Neil made an initial trip to Fort McMurray on May 17, 2016 to assess the scale of the project. He was one of the very few people allowed in at the time and the visit left a deep impression on him. “We normally see one-off fire losses,” he said upon his return, “this was very different. To see entire residential neighbourhoods levelled and charred was shocking. However, you quickly realize that it would have been much, much worse if not for some very skilled, very brave first responders who took a stand in all that chaos and saved almost all the commercial areas. How they did it is beyond me but they did.”
Led by Neil, a skilled and experienced team was selected from STRONE’s Head Office Emergency CAT Department and from the Calgary Branch. Local manpower in Fort McMurray was arranged. Supplies were sourced and the Calgary team set about preparing everything for shipment to Fort McMurray.
Plans in place, a short period of waiting ensued. Tracking the fire’s progress through every available news source became a daily routine. Then suddenly it was time. The first leg was a flight to Calgary to collect vehicles and equipment followed by the long drive to Fort McMurray. Three nights in a workers’ camp an hour south of Fort Mac and then into the city.
The scale of damage affected everyone. Despite the destruction everywhere, the entire team also witnessed an overwhelming degree of compassion and gratitude from all the people they met and worked with. However, there was no time to dwell on the event or that the fire was still blazing somewhere out there. There was work to be done.
The Airport job ran on a punishing schedule. There were just 10 days to clean, deodorize, and prepare the facility for its target opening date. Every space, every surface had to be attended to.
For the first few days, fresh food was scarce but things improved rapidly after June 2 when city residents started to return.
Work quickly fell into a pattern. The crews worked 12-hour days and attended daily update calls with the Central Admin Department at Head Office that managed equipment deployment, sourced supplies, arranged accommodation, managed expenses, tracked hours, scheduled resources, and updated STRONE’s in-house job management system. There was also a local group of workers to supervise.
Given the pace of work and the extended working hours along with the presence of a large number of local workers, safety was the number 1 priority and the team came through the entire project with zero injuries.
In the end, there was a race to the deadline and the job was completed with just 3 hours left on the target completion schedule. However, no effort was spared to bring the premises back to a pristine condition.
All that was missing was the public. On June 10, the first arrivals walked through the terminal and saw a welcome sign, “Welcome Back Fort Mac!” it said.
STRONE is still working on other buildings within the airport and we continue to draw on local manpower. As challenging as it was, the Fort Mac Airport project was one of the most satisfying the team has ever undertaken. It was a privilege to be invited to contribute and to witness the beginnings of a return to normalcy for the brave inhabitants of the city.