The Americas

Residents return to fire-damaged western Canadian oil city

  • Devastation from the wildfire that tore through the city is seen as residents re-enter fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. A steady stream of traffic is moving into Fort McMurray Wednesday as thousands of people who fled a wildfire at the start of May return to see what's left.  (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press via AP)

    Devastation from the wildfire that tore through the city is seen as residents re-enter fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. A steady stream of traffic is moving into Fort McMurray Wednesday as thousands of people who fled a wildfire at the start of May return to see what's left. (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Devastation from the wildfire that tore through the city is seen as residents re-enter fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. A steady stream of traffic is moving into Fort McMurray Wednesday as thousands of people who fled a wildfire at the start of May return to see what's left.  (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press via AP)

    Devastation from the wildfire that tore through the city is seen as residents re-enter fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. A steady stream of traffic is moving into Fort McMurray Wednesday as thousands of people who fled a wildfire at the start of May return to see what's left. (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Russell Boston sits on the front steps of his home moments after returning to fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. A steady stream of traffic is moving into Fort McMurray Wednesday as thousands of people who fled a wildfire at the start of May return to see what's left.  (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press via AP)

    Russell Boston sits on the front steps of his home moments after returning to fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. A steady stream of traffic is moving into Fort McMurray Wednesday as thousands of people who fled a wildfire at the start of May return to see what's left. (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press via AP)  (The Associated Press)

A steady stream of traffic is moving into the fire-damaged Canadian oil sands city of Fort McMurray as thousands of people who fled a wildfire at the start of May return to see what's left.

The fire destroyed 2,400 structures when it ripped through last month, forcing more than 80,000 residents to flee.

The forest is blackened about half an hour outside the city on the only highway in and out of the area. A strong smell of smoke hangs in the air. Billboards were put up saying "Safe Resilient Together" and "We are here. We are strong" to greet people as they drove in.

Officials expect thousands of evacuees to return to the city Wednesday — the first day of a staged re-entry.