It was a September snowstorm Calgarians will never forget. Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) firefighter Troy Meier remembers waking up on September 10 to his own neighbourhood covered in unseasonable whiteness. “Watching trees break in front of my house was definitely scary.” Once Meier got to work at the Wildfire Management Branch’s Calgary Fire Centre, it wasn’t long until his and other crews were sent into the city to provide support. “The best part was how fast we responded. It feels good to help out!”
In response to the massive snow dump, the City of Calgary put in a call to the province to lend a helping hand. 20 firefighters headed immediately to the city to remove trees that had fallen under the weight of heavy, wet snow. By September 15, roughly 120 wildland firefighters from all over the province were in Calgary to help clear tree debris from city streets and parks. Firefighters also helped seniors and people who need help cleaning their yards this week, through the City Links program.
Clearing trees in Calgary isn’t much different than a normal day on the job. Alberta’s wildland firefighters are extensively trained in all aspects of wildfire management, including chainsaw work (to trim and cut down trees). Putting these skills to use in an urban setting, on the other hand, is definitely a memorable experience. Meier says public reception has been overwhelmingly positive. “Whether we cleared an entire street, or just helped one resident move debris to the curb, everyone has been very grateful.”
ESRD’s Wildfire Management Branch has agreements in place with municipalities and counties around Alberta to assist during emergencies. Last year, ESRD firefighters also supported emergency response in southern Alberta after the floods. Check out this blog post for a firsthand account of their work pumping out the Calgary Zoo.