Meet Eli Danny Roy Mercer. He was born at 5:02 a.m on June 17, weighing in at six pounds and six ounces. He is the second child to Melissa Taylor and Steven Mercer and the first sibling to Abigail.

Oh, yeah, and he’s also the first baby born in Fort McMurray since more than 90,000 residents were forced from their homes, threatened by a massive wildfire.

“I didn’t want to have my baby anywhere else,” said his mother Melissa.

A welcome return

Fort McMurray came under an evacuation order on May 3 when a wildfire swept into the city. More than 2,400 structures were destroyed and thousands more damaged. An initial estimate released by Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee on Friday pegged the province’s cost to fight the massive fire at $615 million.

Residents were allowed to return in a phased re-entry that began June 1.

The Northern Lights Regional Health Centre (NLRHC) began restoring core services on June 13 and expects to be back up to full service next week.

Now, life is starting to regain some sense of normalcy again as evidenced by little Eli’s arrival.

“It was the deciding factor for us to come home, knowing that the hospital was back up and running,” said his mother Melissa.

David Matear, the senior operating director of the NLRHC, said all of the staff have been working hard to get the hospital and all the other Alberta Health Services (AHS) facilities back up and running.

“We are so thrilled to see the NLRHC returning to normal service and we’re all so excited to mark this special birth,” Matear said in a news release.

“We are here to make sure that the residents of Fort McMurray are taken care of as they return home and start to rebuild following this natural disaster.” 

AHS says it is now safe for anyone with health issues to finally return to the city.

Juanita Pilgrim, the manager of the maternity/child unit at the NLRHC, said she’s happy to return to her work.

“We’re all caregivers, it’s what we do. We’re so glad to be back doing our jobs and able to support moms in labour and help bring babies into the world,” said Pilgrim.

“Fort McMurray is our home, too.”