Province releases recommendations for dealing with future wildfires
Published Friday, May 18, 2012 6:10PM MDT
Days after Slave Lake marked the first anniversary of the day wildfires destroyed one third of the town, the province has released an independent report outlining recommendations to prevent such destruction in the future.
In the report, the review committee admitted nothing could have been done to improve the outcome of the Slave Lake fire, but outlined a total 21 recommendations, designed to prepare authorities to handle any future wildfires.
The report suggests to new standards and thresholds on when it's appropriate to evacuate homes, proposes the expansion of Fire Weather Advisories, increase resources dedicated to fighting fires and coordinating agencies and jurisdictions in FireSmart risk reduction projects.
The province is now going to review the report to assess how to act on the recommendations but some have already been put in place, including deploying units a month earlier than usual.
What may come out of the document is a community-by-community breakdown to establish a firm protocol of when people need to evacuate.
"It might be wise to pack the truck, fill the gas tank, but the alert to move out of the community is a substantial exercise and you don't want to be crying wolf on some of these fires but there should be thresholds established first for alert," said fire behaviour specialist Dennis Quintilio.
The recommendations fit into seven categories: wildfire prevention, preparedness, communications, organization and incident management, post-wildfire business resumption, policy and legislation and research and development.
According to Alberta Environment, the three wildfires burning in the Lesser Slave Lake area in May 2011 – dubbed The Flat Top Complex – burned about 22,000 hectares of land; two of those fires destroyed more than 500 homes in the Town of Slave Lake and nearby communities.
The department said the 2011 wildfire season had a recorded 1,139 fires in the province, burning a total of 792,173 hectares.
The five-year average is about 1,509 fires burning about 212,701 hectares.
With files from Kevin Armstrong