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July 10, 2013
By Rob Evans

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July 10, 2013, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – After the past two weeks in our part of the word, writing about anything other than flooding seems to be, well, boring. There have been other incidents that needed our attention; a number of motor vehicle collisions, hazardous materials cleanups, medical co-responses, a house fire. But the flooding was the biggest natural disaster to hit our area and surely it will be the talk around these parts for some time to come.

July 10, 2013, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – After the past two weeks in our part of the word, writing about anything other than flooding seems to be, well, boring. There have been other incidents that needed our attention; a number of motor vehicle collisions, hazardous materials cleanups, medical co-responses, a house fire. But the flooding was the biggest natural disaster to hit our area and surely it will be the talk around these parts for some time to come.

When the rain came, it hit towns such as Black Diamond, Turner Valley, High River, Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows before it ever reached centres like Calgary or Medicine Hat. More than 300 millimetres of rain fell in just one day and although the bigger cities lost more in numbers, the devastation has been felt more, as communities, in the smaller towns and villages.

While talking to a representative with the Alberta Municipal Affairs department, Redwood Meadows town manager Pat Evans – yes, she’s my mom – commented about how lucky our town was and how the money we had spent in defending our community was nothing compared to other towns. She was reminded that, although we may not have lost any homes, we certainly did have a disaster of equal proportions when it came to the financial side of the equation.

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During a training on June 18, crews participated in a tanker operations exercise. Little did we know that just two days later, many of the trees in the background of this photo, would be taken by the rushing Elbow River.

Photo by Rob Evans.

So, as the emergency ends, the recovery begins in many of the affected areas. And with the recovery comes the realization that the costs of this disaster will be felt for some time. The politicians will no doubt use the recovery and associated funding as leverage or as springboards to gain support for the next election. Like it or not, this is when the politics of disasters come out. And with comments from the likes of leaders like Lethbridge Fire Chief Brian Cornforth, president of the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association, about the lack of financial support from Ottawa for Canada’s HUSAR teams, fire chiefs across the country will be pulled into the fray, as well. Discussion is good, but we have already had lots of talking. Hopefully there will be some noticeable action in bringing that support to these much-needed teams.

We are lucky in Redwood Meadows, being so close to Calgary and the headquarters of Canada Task Force 2; its assistance was literally an hour away. With that in mind, RMES has to send out thanks to Calgary Deputy Fire Chief Brad Lorne who kept in contact with us during the crisis. But Lorne is not the only one I want to thank on behalf of our department. Rocky View County and its firefighters from Elbow Valley, Springbank, Madden, Langdon and Irricana were all tasked to the area to help the residents of our community. The county also had staff from many different departments making sure that the residents in the Bragg Creek area were served very well, as well as assisting Redwood Meadows. Cochrane Fire Department and its crew, led by Jory Jensen, were outstanding while assisting with many rescues during the first few hours of the operations. On June 21, we had 20 firefighters from Sustainable Resources Development arrive in Redwood Meadows to assist our team. Thank you to Richard Patton for making sure we had that help. During operations along the berm on June 22, I noticed a Crossfield engine responding south past Redwood Meadows. Crossfield is more than an hour’s drive away from our community. Thanks to Chief Ben Niven and his crew. That night we asked for help and received a crew from Chestermere Fire on the east side of Calgary. Thanks to Chief Steve Bagley for the offer and the awesome crew. Thanks to Clearwater County Fire Chief Cammie Laird and the offer for support, as well as to Strathmore Fire Department and Deputy Fire Chief Terry Dessaire for his offer to help, as well.

There are others to thank: civil engineer and Redwood Meadows resident Gary Smolik for making sure the heavy equipment operators knew where and how to place materials to keep the river from washing the banks away. The equipment operators themselves, tireless workers who did a great job in reinforcing the berm throughout the ordeal. The hundreds of volunteers who helped with numerous jobs were great. Elected officials, including Mayor John Welsh and town councilors Dave Dunay, Shelley Surbey and Warren Cleaver, MLA Bruce McAllister and MP Ted Menzies all kept in touch and offered support.

And I have to leave the best for last. Our crew at Redwood Meadows Emergency Services did an outstanding job. Nobody complained and everything that was asked of them was completed. I am not sure I will ever be able to thank them for everything they did and continue to do.

Rob Evans is the chief fire officer for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, 25 kilometres west of Calgary. Evans attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1989 and studied photojournalism. In 1992, he joined RMES after taking pictures of an interface fire and making prints for the department. He has his NFPA 1001 level II certification, NFPA 472 Operations and Awareness (hazmat), NFPA 1041 level I (fire service instructor), Dalhousie University Certificate in Fire Service Leadership and Certificate in Fire Service Administration and is a registered Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics. He lives in Redwood Meadows with his wife, a firefighter/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof.


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