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Parks Canada accepts recommendations from out-of-control Banff fire review

The fire didn’t pose an immediate threat to the town, but it required several areas to be evacuated
An out of control wildfire caused thousands of people to flee their homes in Drayton Valley, Alta., a town about 140 kilometres west of Edmonton. A sign warns of a forest fire in Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

An independent review into a prescribed fire that led to evacuations in a popular tourist town in Banff National Park has made a series of recommendations to try to prevent it from happening again.

The review, which was released by Parks Canada this week, was ordered by the federal agency after the May 2023 fire in Banff, Alta., went out of control when there was a shift in wind direction and speed.

The fire didn’t pose an immediate threat to the town, but it required several areas to be evacuated as a precaution and it caused damage to several sheds, the wildlife fencing along the Trans-Canada Highway and a Banff entrance sign.

The review by Satya Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on emergency service organizations, says there weren’t enough operational briefings for fire crews, some of the equipment had mechanical issues and there was a lack of information for the public.

Some of its recommendations include improving evacuation plans, using fire weather specialists to get more accurate information before a prescribed fire and better communicating the plans to the public.

Parks Canada said in a statement that it accepts the review’s recommendations and will take any steps required to improve its processes for future fires.

“Prescribed fires are complex operations that can require several years of preparation and take place only under specific predetermined conditions,” said the statement.

“While every effort is made to prevent prescribed fires from escaping, there is always risk.”

Parks Canada said contingency resources and plans were in place for the prescribed fire that included an outline of the goals for the fire, a review of the local weather and environmental conditions, and the resources needed to do the work.

The Canadian Press

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