EDMONTON, AB: The Wildrose Official Opposition revealed new information showing only two airtankers were devoted to the Fort McMurray fire on the day before evacuation, and called on the NDP government to explain what happened and reassure Albertans response strategies have been fixed.
The information was obtained by Wildrose through a freedom of information (FOIP) request detailing the airtanker flight time summary report under the department of Agriculture and Forestry.
The documents show that after the fire was first discovered on May 1 at 4 p.m., only two airtankers were devoted to battling the Horse River Fire (listed in the Flight Summary Report with tracking code MWF-009).
Number of Aircraft Attacking in Fort McMurray
Though the time fighting the fire more than doubled on May 2, the number of aircraft on the fire were cut in half. The number of aircraft fighting fires across the province on May 2 were also cut that day.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said this report raises serious and troubling questions about the province’s readiness before the Fort McMurray fire hit given the already dry winter and spring in 2016, and how decisions were made to prioritize resources.
“Albertans deserve answers on why it appears so little in the way of airtanker resources were devoted to the Fort McMurray fire just a day before evacuation and if any policies have changed to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Jean said. “People in Fort McMurray still have so many unanswered questions.”
According to the documents, there were three other wildfires that had airtanker operations on May 2. Only five airtankers worked the province that day compared to nine the previous day.
Total Missions Flown in Fort McMurray
Wildrose Shadow Response & Disaster Preparedness Minister Dave Hanson said it’s difficult for many Albertans to understand why as many airtanker resources as possible weren’t immediately deployed to Fort McMurray to contain and battle the fire given how many people were at risk.
“These are questions we are still waiting to have answered nearly a year after the fire started,” Hanson said. “With another wildfire season just around the corner, people across Alberta want to hear an explanation.”
Flight Times in Fort McMurray
Wildrose analysis of initial airtanker missions on the Horse River Wildfire are available upon request.