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"Just the Beginning" RMA President sounds the alarm on Forest Fires


Photo from Mayor Kevin Zahara Facebook Page

Reeve Paul McLauchlin, President of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, warns that the current wave of forest fires is just the beginning of a larger threat.


As the province grapples with 92 active fires, as of Thursday evening, and approaches the lightning season, McLauchlin wants the provincial parties to emphasize the need for a comprehensive approach to forest management and risk assessment to prevent the escalation of future wildfires.


In a one-on-one interview with the Cross Border Interviews, McLauchlin stated, "What we're seeing right now is expected to be just the beginning of what we're going to see from a forest fire standpoint."


The recent forest fires that have the province on the defensive has highlighted the lack of exposure and preparedness among existing resources. Urgent measures are required to bolster funding and ensure the availability of the best possible resources without burdening municipalities.


McLauchlin expresses concern about the current government's relief efforts, stating, "My biggest worry at this stage is the government's response. We need to formalize mechanisms to provide necessary relief and ensure all the required pieces are in place." He stresses that the severity of the situation demands the alignment of all available resources to effectively combat the fires and alleviate the stress and strain faced by firefighting personnel.


The RMA President also highlights the critical need for better coordination among various agencies and volunteers battling the fires. McLauchlin emphasizes the significance of coordinated efforts, stating, "We really need to coordinate our resources. A lot of these folks have been fighting fires for about a week and a half. They're burning out."


The tireless efforts of firefighting personnel, including dedicated volunteers, deserve recognition and support, McLauchlin stated.


Addressing the issue of budget cuts, McLauchlin raises concerns about the decision to change the approach to initial fire attacks. He suggests that rapid attack strategies alone may not be sufficient, emphasizing the importance of proactive forest management. "We are creating monster fires if we don't deal with them early and start to do some forest management discussions," warns McLauchlin.


Neglecting forest management has led to an abundance of fuel on the ground, allowing fires to escalate rapidly and create their own weather patterns.


Looking ahead, McLauchlin advocates for a comprehensive discussion on landscape management and risk assessment once the immediate crisis is under control. He believes that post-summer and into the fall, stakeholders should engage in a dialogue about fire safety and long-term strategies to mitigate the increasing threat.


Recognizing the dedication of firefighters and volunteers, he emphasizes the need to prioritize their safety and well-being in future fire seasons.


McLauchlin didn't want to sound alarmist, but stated "The models are saying that what we're seeing right now is expected to be just the beginning of what we're going to see from a forest fire standpoint." McLauchlin stated that there is an urgent need for proactive measures, adequate funding, and resource coordination to effectively combat the growing forest fire threat in Alberta.

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