MLA for Lesser Slave Lake
As a lifelong resident of the Lesser Slave Lake region, I am very aware of how important it is to be prepared for all of Mother Nature’s challenges. And like most of you, I have seen first-hand the kind of impact a large-scale disaster can have on communities like ours. Difficult memories resurfaced last spring when I oversaw the coordination of our government’s response to the wildfires in Fort McMurray as former Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Only six years ago our region saw a fire of then-unprecedented size and speed that destroyed homes and businesses, cutting through towns and devastating communities. Many people were forced out of their homes to temporary evacuation shelters in neighbouring communities such as Athabasca and Westlock with no idea when they could go home and what they might be returning to.
It was weeks before some were able to return to their homes to see what was left and to begin the lengthy process of rebuilding – and around town you can see that process is still going on.
Elsewhere in our province, the effects of a recent wildfire are still more pronounced. In Fort McMurray the impact of the fire that devastated the region last summer is still at the forefront. But they will rebuild, just like we’re rebuilding. Albertans are strong, resilient and determined – characteristics that no fire could possibly burn out.
As our neighbours in British Columbia face a terribly destructive wildfire season, with out-of-control fires now covering thousands of hectares and forcing more than 14,000 people from their homes, I know everyone in this community and across Alberta is thinking of them.
We’ve lived through this.
We’ve seen firsthand just how destructive and debilitating such a disaster can be.
And as we read about some residents being able to return home and survey the damage, I know our thoughts are with them.
It is important during this time that we support our neighbours as we were supported during our difficult time. First responders and fire-rescue personnel from Alberta and all over our great country have come together to provide support and fight the fires on the front lines in British Columbia.
For those of us unable to help on the front lines, it is just as important to make donations to non-profit organizations that are providing support, such as the Canadian Red Cross. See redcross.ca for details.
At the end of the day, though, the more important work we have to do begins well before the first spark ignites in the spring. One of the most important parts of wildfire prevention and preparation is recognizing that we all have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent wildfires. Many wildfires, especially those that are the result of human activity, are entirely preventable. That’s why it’s up to all of us to take small steps like ensuring our campfires are properly put out, make sure our off-highway vehicles are kept clean and in good condition, and take proactive steps to reduce the fire risk on our own properties.
There are countless other ways we can help reduce the risk of wildfires, and to reduce their spread. I’d like to urge all my constituents to review FireSmart information and resources the Government of Alberta makes available at wildfire.alberta.ca, so that we all do whatever we can to be part of the solution.