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'People are on edge': Lessons learned after 2023 wildfire and flood evacuations in Edson

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People living in Edson were forced to flee their homes twice last spring.

"We refer to them as emergencies one, two and three," said Edson's Mayor, Kevin Zahara.

The town 195 kilometres west of Edmonton was evacuated twice due to wildfires, then was hit by flooding.

"We're approaching the one-year anniversary of what occurred in our community and it's very dry outside," Zahara said.

"People are on edge," he said, adding "we just cross our fingers that we don't have to face the same sort of situation."

But if they do, Zahara said the town is in a better position to deal with it.

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An 'after action report' was completed, which outlined things the municipality needed to work on.

Zahara said prior to the 2023 evacuations, none of the town's staff had any formal training to deal with emergencies.

"All of our staff now have some sort of training in incident command response, and we also have a number of employees that have advanced training now," he said.

Through donations from industry, he said the Edson Fire Department has more equipment to respond to wildfires this year.

"As well, we are in the process of procuring a structural protection unit for our fire department," said Zahara.

"It was actually in the budget last year prior to the wildfires, but unfortunately, we did not have it acquired in time."

Emergency social services training was also offered to volunteers in the event Edson becomes an evacuation location.

Through a grant, the town was also able to clear trees and debris to reduce wildifre risk.

Zahara said even residents are preparing for whatever this wildfire season brings.

"They have an emergency kit ready to go. There's others that have saved up funds, that are concerned they might have to be evacuated again and what kind of financial impact that's going to have on them," he said.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson  

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