Former Wood Buffalo fire chief reflects on Canada’s largest wildfire evacuation
Former Wood Buffalo fire chief, Darby Allen, was the keynote speaker at the eighth annual Management Student Professional Development Program Conference, hosted by the University of Lethbridge and Chartered Professional Accounts.
In the spring of 2016, Allen spearheaded the evacuation of nearly 90,000 people in Fort McMurray, Alta. The fire itself didn’t cause any fatalities.
Allen reflected on his time as a firefighter during his address.
“I’ve been a firefighter since 1983. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
Firefighters from Lethbridge remember that fire fight and Deputy Chief Dana Terry recalls the erie drive into Fort McMurray.
“Residents were gone, store owners were gone, nobody’s there. And that really affected all of us to realize that this is. It was almost post apocalyptic.”
The fire, dubbed “The Beast,” destroyed more than 2,400 buildings and caused an estimated $3.8 billion in insured damage.
Allen says the outpouring of support from other first responders was unbelievable.
“It was so heart warming and I felt so grateful that they came to help that community,” he said.
“And I didn’t call and ask anyone to come — they just trundled up that highway and came to help us.
“There wasn’t a lot to eat, a lot to drink, and you didn’t get much sleep, but they did a wonderful job and I know the people of McMurray thank them very much.”
And now lessons learned from Fort McMurray are being implemented in Lethbridge.
“Our worst-case scenarios are not our worst case,” Terry said. “So what we’re doing now is we plan for a little bit worse incidents to happen. So when we do an exercise that we’re going to practice, what our emergency plan is, we make them worse than before.”
Allen will be speaking at 23 other events this year; talking about his journey, the 2016 fires, and life after the most expensive disaster in Canadian history.
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