In response to the public concerns which have surfaced recently, I asked the Premier for some further information about government actions and specifically details about any potential military involvement. You can see my request and Premier McLeod’s response below – FYI.
TO: Premier McLeod
Dear Bob – please see the comments below from a constituent; the article that is referenced is a follow up to the press conference held yesterday in YK. The questions raised below deserve answers but residents don’t seem to be getting the answers they need – from press conferences or from the media. Can you provide me with the info that is lacking so I can reassure my constituent and all Frame Lake constituents?
- When did we (GNWT) start to discuss the possibility of military help with the Federal government?
- What is the status of our ask and their answer? Will the military help us if needed? If there is no answer yet, when will we get one?
- As crew contracts end, and crew members don’t opt to extend them, how will GNWT ensure that we have the firefighters we need to fight all of our fires? People want and need to know that the resources will be there as and when needed.
- Are we safe? If yes, why? What is the reason behind that statement?
- Are we not safe? If no, why? What is the reason behind that statement?
Bob – people need specifics in order to trust that GNWT is “handling things”. As I said yesterday, in the absence of information people imagine the worst. Certainly yesterday provided a lot of information but it also added more issues to the mix, and incomplete info at that it seems.
I look forward to your reply. Thanks much. Wendy
Thank you for the email and your interest in this area.
I can assure you and the constituents of Frame Lake that the city of Yellowknife is in no imminent danger as a result of fires forest fires in the area.
Limited recent rain, higher relative humidity (RH) and lower temperatures have all helped us on fire ZF-85. The most significant advances, however, have been undertaken and completed by crews working on the ground in the area. Recent updates suggest that between 60 and 77 firefighters are working this fire event. In addition we have up to five rotor wing aircraft, two CL 215 tanker groups and a L-188 Electra aircraft available as needed. These resources have combined to help contain the southern and eastern flanks of this fire; thereby diminishing the risk it poses to Yellowknife and residents along the highway 3.
As noted by Minister Miltenberger in recent media interviews, the Department of ENR continues to investigate all options should additional support on this or other fire events be needed. These options include importing additional resources from other jurisdictions or other countries through sharing agreements.
Another option being assessed is a request for assistance from the Canadian military. To date staff from ENR, MACA, and the regional/territorial Emergency Measures Office have been working together to outline the conditions and processes that might be used to initiate such a request. While the use of the military remains as an option, we do not believe it is warranted at this time. We say that because of recent initiatives undertaken by ENR in the area of training.
Over the past number of weeks the Department has initiated Emergency Firefighter (EFF) training in the South Slave region. This training has resulted in approximately 40 EFFs coming on strength. A second training opportunity is being planned as we speak and is expected to yield an additional 80 EFFS. In addition, and through our MARS agreements, the department has been able to secure an additional 60 professional firefighters from Ontario and Manitoba. We believe these additional resources, coupled with the recent change in weather, will help ensure we are well situated to deal with current fire activity.
The processes and systems outlined above exist to help us deal with these sorts of situations; and I am glad to see they are working seamlessly. I am also happy to see how the departments of ENR, MACA and DOT have responded to public concern regarding information flow. I have seen daily fire updates posted to the internet, regular public safety bulletins distributed via email/internet, media interviews with Ministers, ADMs, Superintendents, etc., social media postings and multi-departmental press conferences. All of this and more in an effort to help ensure the public is well-informed. In my estimation, the staff in these departments have gone ‘above and beyond’ to help keep the public well-informed and should be commended for their effort.
I understand this is a stressful time for many NWT residents and we in the GNWT are doing what we can to allay those concerns. As leaders we need to make sure this information flow is maintained but we also have a responsibility to help ensure that information is delivered in a responsible fashion. I would ask for your continued assistance in this regard.