With Alberta now under a state of emergency due to the ongoing wildfire crisis, visitors to the West Country wilderness area along the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains should and must exercise extreme caution in the coming days.
With thousands of people evacuated from their home communities elsewhere in the province and emergency crews working full out to address fires now burning, it is vitally important that human-caused fires not be sparked in the West Country.
The declared state of emergency will provide the provincial government with a high level of intergovernmental coordination, access to emergency discretionary funds, and the ability to bring in additional supports while continuing to work with municipalities, organizations and businesses to support evacuated residents, say officials.
With thousands of lives at stake, as well as homes, businesses and vital infrastructure at risk, it is proper and fitting that the province has declared the state of emergency.
And it is also encouraging to see leaders from the various political parties working together to guide the province through this crisis. The level of cooperation seen so far reflects very well on Alberta’s top elected and non-elected officials.
As one of central Alberta’s great renewable resources, the West Country is a top tourist destination, a major industry and economic driver, and an ecological stronghold of great and ongoing value.
Yet the scenic woodland and forest area is also vulnerable to wildfires, as has been seen on numerous occasions in recent years.
Vast human and financial resources are being deployed to meet the current wildfire crisis, particularly in areas west and north of Edmonton.
To have some of those same resources pulled away from where they are now being deployed to fight fires in the West County would be in nobody’s best interest.
As such, anyone visiting the West Country in the coming days should and must make a concerted effort to prevent wildfires, including obeying all fire bans and other restrictions.
Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.