Fire crews in Fort McMurray continue to douse flames inside the northern Alberta community as hundreds of technicians have begun the long process of repairing kilometres of power lines, water pipes and gas mains destroyed in the wildfires.
Ten days after an inferno roared into the city of more than 80,000, provincial officials warned on Thursday that they won't be in a position to comment about bringing residents on tours of the shattered community, let alone permanent re-entry, for another two weeks.
"Your community is not yet safe and, until it is, people cannot go home," Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said at a press conference in Edmonton. "This danger has not yet passed."
The next step in Fort McMurray's slow recovery starts on Friday as 400 specialists begin cleaning up the city's hospital. While the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre wasn't destroyed in the flames, the structure has suffered damage.
"There was some water and smoke damage, and as you can well imagine, one of the most sterile places that we have to have is the hospital. There's a lot of work there to get that done," said Scott Long of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
The Fort McMurray hospital is one of the most important health centres in northern Alberta. Officials say the facility will need to be operational before residents are allowed back into the city, as the nearest hospital is several hours away.
There's no timeline yet on when the health centre will be fully scrubbed and ready.
The Alberta government announced on Thursday that the Canadian military is pulling its personnel from the city as they are no longer needed. Brigadier-General Wayne Eyre said that troops will remain on high alert.
Seven damage-assessment teams are now in the area, tallying the damage to each of the city's residences. The process should take five more days. In all, 2,432 structures were destroyed in the wildfires and another 530 were damaged. While there are still 25,000 structures standing in Fort McMurray, many of them may have suffered smoke damage.
On Wednesday, two hotspots flared back into fires within the city. Officials now worry that warm, dry weather expected next week could lead to more fires.
"It is still an unsafe environment. There are still fire threats in certain areas. There are still downed power lines. There is still an awful lot more work that has to be done as quickly as possible," said Mr. Long.
A cameraman working for CBC/Radio-Canada was airlifted to hospital in critical condition on Thursday morning after a crash outside Lac La Biche, a town two hours south of Fort McMurray where many evacuees and reporters are currently based.
Darby Allen, the fire chief who has led efforts to face the conflagration, said on Thursday that he is taking a week off to spend time with his family. Mr. Allen has been one of the only officials from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo who has kept a consistent public profile in the days since flames entered the community.
"I'll be honest, I need a break," he told reporters at the police barricade south of Fort McMurray. "I'm going to spend time with my family and we're going to hug a lot and I'm going to have a couple of beers."
With files from The Canadian Press