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New Brunswick government reviewing response to forest fire near Saint Andrews – New Brunswick

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The New Brunswick government is reviewing the response to the 540-hectare forest fire ignited by an all-terrain vehicle in May.

It’s called an after-action review (AAR), undertaken by the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development after fires and training activities.

“The review is used to find what aspects of the incident that went well and what aspects need to be improved,” said Bruce Macfarlane in an email statement.

“The AAR process for the Stein Fire has commenced and included staff, local fire departments and other collaborators who worked or were involved.”

But an emergency preparedness researcher and professor at Dalhousie University said having plans for vulnerable rural communities is critical.

Haorui Wu said there are three levels of preparedness: individual, community and societal.

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“So, combine those three levels together,” he said. “The most important thing is to build a culture of resiliency, a culture of preparedness, because in Atlantic Canada we’ve been seeing a lot of natural disasters and with the data on climate change, more disasters are on their way.”

Saint Andrews is a small rural town and the fire broke out about 20-kilometres away, destroying one home. Wu explained rural areas are particularly vulnerable.

“Resilience is when we need to consider the cycle, about its different stages, and integrate the capacity, which means resilience capacity,” Wu said.

An Alert Ready message was not sent as the Town of Saint Andrews and its fire department began its initial evacuations, with Public Safety Minister Kris Austin telling reporters at the time the fire didn’t meet the criteria.

Wu said it might not have been deemed the most effective way to reach everyone.

“It’s not an easy issue for the risk communication or disaster communication,” he said. “Because different disasters have a different impact.”

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The province said that “all agencies involved need to find ways to inform the public in the event of an emergency as well as on an ongoing basis.”

He said the paramount thing is everyone needs to be protected, meaning each of the levels must have a plan to respond to any disaster.

“That’s why we need a bottom-up approach from the community level and top-down approach from the government level,” he said.

Wu said every disaster is an opportunity to take a look at the lessons learned and how to improve on them.

Those lessons should then be applied when there is another major event.

“What is the best approach to use in the disaster plan that works for those small communities and what are the areas of improvement for those communities?”

Macfarlane said the AARs are all rolled up into action items for agencies involved to work on.

“This process is an ongoing process by which we try to constantly improve,” he said.

The department did not indicate when the review would be completed or if it would be made public.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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