IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT AUMA advocate to the Alberta Government for the responsibility of Structure Protection within the Province of Alberta to be delegated to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. This includes managing the deployment and payment of invoices for any municipal resources utilized and assuming responsibility for provincial structural protection equipment and management of all associated wildfire structure protection response when it occurs within the forest protection area.
WHEREAS Alberta has experienced several devastating fires in recent years such as: Slave Lake, Fort MacMurray, Municipal District of Pincher Creek # 9, High Level and Waterton Park;
WHEREAS the relative costs to protect structures both urban and rural within the wildfire pathways in the forest protection area is undetermined and may be delegated to the affected municipal jurisdiction; and
WHEREAS the responsibility for structure protection presently falls within the mandate of Alberta Municipal Affairs who do not have the budget and or operational capability; and who may delegate the financial and operational responsibility to individual municipalities who do not have the capacity for funding structural protection within a wildfire; primarily starting outside of the local jurisdiction;
Given the high rate of wildfires within Alberta over the last several years this resolution is a high priority for most municipalities not having adequate funding to provide structural protection. A similar resolution is being drafted and submitted to RMA by the Municipal District of Pincher Creek # 9 for the 2020 Fall Session.
A position paper was prepared by Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission (PCESC) members, the MD of Pincher Creek #9 and the Town of Pincher Creek, which is summarized as follows:
In the past few years, values have been lost due to wildfires throughout Alberta. Structure protection has been used to defend values other than forests when wildfires extended into communities with some success. Examples are Slave Lake, Fort McMurray, MD of Pincher Creek, High Level, and Waterton.
The recommendations from the Slave Lake Fire (the Flat Top Complex Report) recommended having structure protection become Municipal Affairs responsibility. This has resulted in mixed success as Municipal Affairs, represented by the Community and Technical Support Branch, does not have operational capability.
The step taken to overcome this lack of ability was to enter into an agreement with the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association funded through a grant to create guidelines addressing equipment needs, training needs, compensation rates, and deployment processes to utilize municipal resources similar to the model used in British Columbia.
Municipal Affairs still does not have operational capability in either the Community and Technical Support Branch or the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.
This department is not in a position to supply structure protection services. They chose not to follow the structure protection guidelines approved in 2018 during the 2019 fire season. Instead of paying the costs of structure protection, they unloaded this responsibility on the local governments. The process for payment of structure protection costs, if the approved process had been followed, would have had the costs covered by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. However, Agriculture and Forestry was not given the opportunity to fund this expense since they were not provided with the information needed to cost it to the respective incidents.
Had the approved process been followed, local jurisdictions would not have been put in position to pay for something they had not been responsible for. No local government should be put in a position to pay provincial expenses without prior consultation.
The Community and Technical Support Branch, represented by the Fire Commissioner, has now reviewed and updated the Structure Protection Guidelines which was supposed to be done prior to the 2019 fire season.
Our long-term position is that Structure Protection should become the responsibility of the Wildfire Division of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry who have operational capability to create agreements, review guidelines, and manage expenses.
Understandably, this probably cannot happen for the 2020 wildfire season since the processes that need to occur require time and budget to become adopted.
Our immediate position is that, in the interim, the Community and Technical Support Branch, represented by the Fire Commissioner, will follow the 2020 Structure Protection Guidelines regarding deployment and payment of invoices.
The Community and Technical Support Branch in consultation with Agriculture and Forestry should begin the process of handing off the structure protection equipment they have and the responsibility for managing structure protection to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.