Fort McMurray Wildfire

The noon hour passes in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, the thoughts and prayers of Canadians are with the residents, emergency managers, and responders of Alberta as they continue to battle the fire that ignited Monday, May 2nd 2016.
The 10,000 hectare fire has, at the time of this article, caused the evacuation of 60,000 and the loss of homes, businesses, as well as causing significant economic disruption and impact (the price of oil is already going up). Suncor and Shell for example have ceased operation. The south end of the City has suffered tremendous loss with a neighbourhood housing 2,000 residents destroyed.

Unfortunately, weather conditions in the near future do not support progress through an offensive attack today.

Alberta has one of the most robust Canadian Emergency Management models. Further, they have some of the highest trained and most experienced emergency managers in the country. The Incident Command System (ICS) is providing an interoperable Command and Control platform for joint operations between local first responders, RCMP, forest fire fighters, industry, evacuation centres, and likely the Canadian Armed Forces. Emergency Operations Centres, like the one activated at 200 Airport Road in Fort McMurray are linked through the technological solutions D-LAN, implemented after the Slave Lake Fire. The solution ensures organization of responses, ongoing situational awareness, and a common operating picture between response agencies on the ground and the levels of Emergency Operations Centres within the Province.

Like most communities in Canada, Emergency Management is built by the local leaders and responders. The Canadian Emergency Model is a ground-up approach based upon local risk assessment, initial response capability, and vertically integrated emergency management.

This incident is a reminder that continued diligence and funding are required at all levels to ensure we are prepared at all times. Cities like Fort McMurray are well prepared with proper risk assessments, evacuation plans, integrated exercises, and partnerships between the community, industry, modern technology, and responders. Each of us needs to look at our own communities and examine whether there is more work to be done and ensure that our response capability is commensurate with the level of risk.

The citizens of Fort McMurray are a tough and resilient group. They have fuelled our nation through their hard work and resourcefulness. Our Canadian model for Emergency Management and nationwide support structure will ensure the kind wishes of Canadians become actions aiding in your recovery.

Premier Rachel Notley, Fort McMurray Mayor Melissa Blake, and Scott Long from Alberta Emergency Management are to be commended for their ongoing leadership in these challenging times.

About the author:

Mark leads the ESI team in conducting risk assessments, training, program, and plan review, exercise scenario development, exercise facilitation, and evaluation as well as compiling final After Action Review documentation and recommendations. Under Mark’s leadership, there have been six (6) Federal research and development projects conceived and executed by the ESI team. Service has been provided for various critical infrastructures, such as Port Saint John, Point Lepreau Generating Station, Canaport Liquefied Natural Gas, Saint John Energy, as well as corporations like Atlantic Potash, Mead Johnson Nutrition, and the Mosaic Company.