Fort McMurray could have a much different look after the community rebuilds from last month’s wildfires.
RM of Wood Buffalo Fire Chief Darby Allen is among those urging changes in the way new homes are built in the oil sands capital to prevent similar disasters in the future. Allen wants homes built further away from the forests and made from fire resistant materials. The fire chief says normally he’d expect a lot of resistance to his ideas. “In normal times, if you go for a proposal like that and it’s never happened before and it’s going to cost a lot of money to put in and you’ve got to chop down a lot of trees, you’re offending a lot of people. You’re affecting a lot of people. And the chances of getting something like that through is pretty well zero.” But Allen says these are not normal times. “But when we’ve seen the type of thing we’ve seen here, I think there’s more of a realistic chance of getting that type of thing through.”
Mayor Melissa Blake agrees, but isn’t sure bylaw changes will be needed. “The reality is people are going to be going through their rebuilding process. They’re going to have these thoughts on their mind themselves. If you live through something like this, you want to make sure you’re more resistant to it in the future. So rather than legislative changes, it may well be personal choice. If people know there’s a better way of doing it they may opt just to do it.”
Allen’s suggestion includes moving set backs from the forest to 40 or 50 meters from the current five and prohibiting wooden fences.