Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the Slave Lake wildfire disaster that left nearly a third of the northern Alberta community in ruins. Consulting firm KPMG released a 200 page report this week with 19 recommendations to improve the province’s response to wildfires and other natural disasters.
KPMG cited the wildfires that swept through Slave Lake on May 15, 2011 as the most widespread and destructive disaster in the history of Alberta. The fires destroyed approximately 500 buildings, both residential homes and commercial offices, and left over 2,000 people homeless. The report credited rescue officials for preventing any casualties, but slammed the government for what was considered an ineffective response time.
“No plans were available at local or provincial levels to accommodate the need to evacuate so many residents. Most of those involved were not well-prepared or trained for the possibility of a large evacuation, from individual residents to governments to first responders.”
The government accepted that a better response was necessary for future disasters, and requested a consultation with KPMG. One of the recommendations discussed financial support, which includes government aid, insurance payouts, and personal donations from Canadian citizens to help thousands of people who lost their homes. KPMG recommended that all financial support be managed in an effective, coordinated manner to assist victims of the disaster, and ensure long term recovery for the community at large.
The Alberta government was one of the organizers of a North American disaster conference hosted in Banff this week. The conference discussed lessons learned from natural disasters in Canada and the US, including the wildfire in Slave Lake. Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths was in attendance, and insisted that the government accepts the recommendations from KPMG.
Griffiths mentioned that 231 wildfires were recorded in Alberta this year, and advised homeowners to clear all flammable materials such as dead leaves, wood, and brush from their properties. He also recommends that homeowners review their home insurance plans for financial security in the event of a wildfire.