Fort McMurray Wildfire: Alberta Government To Review Response

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A resident surveys the damage of houses destroyed by wildfire in the Timberlea neighborhood of Fort McMurray, Alta. | Bloomberg via Getty Images

EDMONTON — Alberta has ordered a review into how it responded to the huge wildfire known as "The Beast'' that destroyed parts of the Fort McMurray region and forced close to 90,000 people from their homes.

The government says the review will focus on how well the province was prepared for the fire that broke out on May 1 and burned almost 5,900 square kilometres.

It will also cover how the government fought the wildfire, which is no longer growing but is not yet under control.

"This fire has altered the lives of thousands of people who are now faced with the difficult task of rebuilding their lives,'' Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier said Wednesday in a release.

"Reviews like this are a normal part of our business when faced with extreme wildfire conditions or an extreme wildfire event.''

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Members of the RCMP talk as smoke rises from the Fort McMurray wildfire on May 6, 2016. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The fire destroyed 2,400 homes and buildings and caused the shutdown of two key oilsands facilities.

The government has issued a request for proposals to find a contractor to conduct the review, which is to be completed by the end of the year.

"The impact to both infrastructure and the economy will be measured in the billions of dollars,'' the review document says.

The review is to include an assessment of the weather, which was unseasonably warm, dry and windy, and how much timber and brush surrounded threatened or burned neighbourhoods and oilsands facilities.

The review will also look at the behaviour of the fire, which spread quickly and unpredictably.

"This fire has altered the lives of thousands of people who are now faced with the difficult task of rebuilding their lives."

Wildfire operations, including the number of firefighters, equipment and aircraft that were deployed to fight the fire and how they were used, are also to be looked at.

Carlier said the cause of the wildfire, which is being investigated by RCMP and wildfire officials, will not be part of the review.

The Municipal Affairs Department is looking at ordering a separate review into the evacuation of the city and the area, but no announcement has been made yet.

Similar reviews were held after the wildfire that destroyed part of the town of Slave Lake in 2011. Those reviews lead to changes in how the province works to prevent and fight wildfires.

People have been returning to the Fort McMurray and the surrounding area since June 1.

Earlier this week the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo estimated that about half of the evacuees have come home as the community slowly works to bounce back from the disaster.

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Fort McMurray Wildfire (May 2016)
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