Not Many “Surprises” From Province’s Wildfire Reviews For Fire Chief Butz

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Not Many “Surprises” From Province’s Wildfire Reviews For Fire Chief Butz

Reactions are coming out about two independent reviews commissioned by the province looking into how they handled the Horse River Wildfire.

Both the MNP and KPMG reports highlighted a lack of communication and preparedness.

The KPMG report focused more on "the knowledge, experience, and insights of those directly involved. The MNG report focused on reviewing the environmental conditions leading up while evaluating readiness, preparedness, and response.

“Reports confirming what we already knew.”

Fire Chief Jody Butz says there weren’t many surprises from the reports.

He notes certain items were “far and above” the municipality’s scale and scope, due to the reports being on a provincial level.

However, the KPMG report stated, "local and provincial emergency management programs had never tested their plans, resources, and protocols in the context of a wildland-urban interface fire of this size, scope, speed, complexity, and ferocity,"

Butz says it would be tough for anyone to be prepared for such a blaze.

“Can you ever be prepared for a disaster of that size and scale. What we faced last May was unprecedented.”

KPMG will also be conducting the municipality’s independent review. Residents and business owners can take part in surveys regarding access to various recovery supports and the effectiveness of them.

Butz expects most of the content to be around the evacuation, focusing a lot on communication.

“Communication is always a concern and a challenge when dealing with these types and level of a disaster.”

Residents can give their input by going to rmwb.ca/wildfirereview. The survey will be open until June 30.

Brian Jean looking to start a judge-led public inquiry.

“Disgusted” was Jean’s word of choice when describing the wait for these reports. Now that they’re public, frustration is settling in as the Wildrose Leader wants to continue looking into the province’s handling of the wildfire.

Right after the reports were leaked, Jean went to social media, calling for a judge-led public inquiry. His reason, so residents can see what’s being reviewed instead of behind closed doors.

“They claim that these are independent reports, of course they are, but who decides on what the criteria of the report is done on, what methodology they use, and who decides who they report to, well the government does.”

Jean notes the KPMG report only interviewed around 250 residents. Last year, the population of Fort McMurray was estimated to be around 78,000.

“I think it’s very, very incumbent on the government to get to the bottom of it and let the public have their say so this type of thing never happens again,” added Jean.

Both reports noted communication was lacking between the province and municipality. It states when firefighters and RMWB “were not physically working together on the ground, they could not directly communicate by radio to identify priorities or support each other.”

During the wildfire, municipal firefighters and Alberta Forestry firefighting personnel were not operating on the same radio frequency.

“The report made it extremely abundantly clear that there was a breakdown in communication,” added Jean.

“These reports were a good first step but we need to get to the bottom of it,”
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