Lessons From Horse River Wildfire Helping Crews Battle Current Fires

Lessons learned from the Horse River wildfire are helping firefighters battle blazes currently happening across the province.

Crews have been fighting wildfires over the past few weeks, some of which have threatened different communities such as High Level and Slave Lake.

Information Unit Lead for Alberta Wildfire Christie Tucker tells Mix News many of their current strategies were implemented because of our community’s evacuation.

She says the big change comes in the form of a Unified Command Structure.

“The people from Alberta Wildfire, the incident commanders, the ones running the operations are working side-by-side with the municipalities right from the beginning.”

A report released in 2017 from the municipality suggested the lack of a authority structure made battling the wildfire a challenge early on.

“Unified command per the ICS Canada model was not established quickly enough between the RMWB and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry in order to enable common situational awareness, establish a common set of objectives and develop a single, coordinated series of Incident Action Plans,” the report said.

In High Level, Tucker adds decisions being made to combat the fire in the community and in the wooded areas were made together instead of separately.

Another change focuses on longer accurate weather forecasting.

This allowes crews to prepare for the off-chance the blaze makes its way towards the community.

“Outside of High Level, we were able to take advantage of this more accurate weather forecast in order to do some of the preliminary work outside of the town to build those structures, to do control burning, and to take away some of the fuel that the fire would be consuming as it moved towards the town.”

These changes were all recommendations from two reports which looked at the province’s response to the wildfire.

Though not a direct change from the Horse River wildfire, Tucker believes High Level was much more open to evacuating early after seeing what happened in Wood Buffalo.

She notes this may be a common practice moving forward.

“Everyone in Canada had seen what happened in Fort McMurray, sensitivities have been raised about the importance of evacuating and I think people are probably more quick to respond as a result of that.”

Meanwhile, Tucker wants people to understand the fire bans and OHV restrictions they’ve put in place are there to help prevent wildfires from happeneing.

More from Mix 103.7