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Fort McMurray man bares the cold winter to rebuild his house

Photo provided of Steve Menard.

Steve Menard was one of the thousands of Fort McMurray residents who lost their homes in last May’s wildfire.

Now, Menard and his wife have rented a condo on Riedel, but they don’t plan on staying there much longer.

Every morning at 7:15 a.m., Menard leaves his condo on Riedel and drives to his old house that was burned down.

Menard doesn’t get up early every morning for no reason, instead, he gets up every morning to continue rebuilding his house.

Menard was one of the 470 homeowners who were approved for rebuild permits out of the over 2400 homes lost during the fire.

“I started looking through the rebuilding process in August or September,” said Menard. “Out of the 470 that were allowed to go ahead in rebuilding, I was one of the first 37 issued a rebuilding permit in late October.”

Menard and his wife have been in Fort McMurray for more than 40 years, and his step-son Doug has been in town for more than 35 years and has also raised his family here.

“I have tons of family helping me out,” said Menard. “There is no place I rather be than here in Fort McMurray, It’s just such a great city, great people, I love the way all of us have overcome adversity, it just feels so good being a part of this community.”

Despite the freezing temperatures during the winter months, that has not deterred Menard and his crew one bit, as they continued to work, some days without even taking a lunch break.

“We had a wood fire in the basement corner to burn all the scrap material and two-by-fours and that’s where the heat came from to stay warm while we were building and a place to keep our tools warm,” said Menard. “You would be lucky if you get four or five nails in before the gun would freeze, so we would have to run down, grab a new nail gun, and a fresh hose and come back up and get back at it.”

Menard said his skill and experience as a minor hockey coach, turns any potential complaint sessions into pep talks.

After starting in November, when you visit the house, shingles will be on the roof, doors and windows are all installed and locks. In floor heating is also installed, and electrical.

“It’s overwhelming, building this home is the whole healing process.”

Menard and his wife are planning on moving into the new house and having their first cup of homemade coffee on Canada Day.

“It will be a big day for me because my father passed away a few years ago on the exact date and it has never been the same for me since,” said Menard. “This has been pretty magical, with the whole healing process and everything, it’s been one heck of a ride.”