Gateway Gazette

Wildrose Calls on NDP Government to Create Independent Public Inquiry into Wildfire Response

EDMONTON, AB: With (the first of June) marking one year since the Fort McMurray fire evacuation and re-entry, the Wildrose Official Opposition is calling for an independent public inquiry into the organization, management and operations that went into the wildfire response given the many serious questions and concerns that remain outstanding.

An independent, judge-led public inquiry, as opposed to a review or report, would create an additional level of accountability and separation from government. Judicial oversight would guarantee that there is separation from ministry officials and give Albertans the best picture on how to handle future wildfires and natural disasters.

“The Fort McMurray wildfire was the largest natural disaster in our province’s history. We owe it to the residents of Fort McMurray and all Albertans to understand how this fire grew so quickly out of control and how to best prevent another disaster like it in the future,” Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said. “I made a promise to the residents of Fort McMurray that I would be with them every step of the way as we re-build, and it’s my hope that the NDP government will recognize the need for an inquiry given the magnitude of this disaster.”

A public inquiry would follow the model of a similar inquiry in Australia following bushfires, and would allow for the ability to compel witnesses and documents that may not otherwise be made public.

The scope of an independent judge-led public inquiry would include but would not be limited to:

  • Preventative measures including FireSmart and building codes leading up to the fire;
  • Air Tanker availability and response;
  • Fire line contracts;
  • The initial response to the wildfire; and,
  • Evacuation procedures.

“It’s clear that not enough lessons were learned from the Slave Lake disaster and the ensuing report to have our communities adequately prepared for the Fort McMurray fire, or for the next threat,” Wildrose Shadow Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response Minister Dave Hanson said. “We need an independent public inquiry to get complete answers about what went wrong and to establish concrete, independent recommendations that will benefit all Alberta communities.”

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