First Nations Wildfire Evacuations
A Guide for Communities and External Agencies
Nearly one third of wildfire evacuations in Canada involve Indigenous communities. While evacuations are carried out to protect people from smoke and flames, deciding to leave brings its own challenges.
This evacuation guide is based on interviews with over two hundred wildfire evacuees from seven First Nations. By comparing the evacuees’ experiences, both good and bad, it provides direction on how Indigenous communities and external agencies can best prepare for the different stages of an evacuation. Packed with real-life stories, checklists, and guiding questions, it gives an overview of what to expect and how to plan.
Specific topics include:
- assessing the risk to the health and safety of community members
- knowing when to do a partial vs a full evacuation
- figuring out who to contact for help
- troubleshooting transportation
- communicating with members before and after the evacuation
- arranging appropriate accommodation for evacuees
- caring for Elders and other more vulnerable community members
- organizing food and activities while away.
With climate change raising the danger of wildfires around the world, the experiences of the communities featured in this book will serve as an indispensable resource for any town at risk from fire.
This book belongs in every band council office and on the bookshelves of anyone involved in emergency management. It provides valuable guidance for First Nations, agencies involved in carrying out or providing support during wildfire evacuations, and host communities.
First Nations Wildfire Evacuations: A Guide for Communities and External Agencies is a critical step-by-step guide for all parties affected.
Good emergency management is deeply human-centric. Drawing on remarkable true-life experiences, this book offers practical guidance on emergency evacuation. Well-researched, inclusive, insightful, and approachable, it ticks all the boxes.
It was a great pleasure working with Tara McGee and Amy Christianson on the First Nations Wildfire Evacuation Partnership. Their work highlights the fact that Indigenous people, in learning from the environments they have lived in and cared for since time immemorial, have embraced the First Nations’ idea that adaptation equals resilience equals sustainability.
Combining research and the powerful voices of community members, this book provides a holistic approach to wildfire evacuations. It is an important resource not only for First Nations, but for any community wanting to plan for any kind of emergency evacuation.
We have seen fire evacuations on the news and read reports of confusion, panic, and trauma both during and after these evacuations. McGee, Christianson, and their colleagues enable First Nations communities to tell their stories, while also rigorously analyzing successes, failures, and lessons learned. If future reports show better-run and less stressful evacuations, it may well be because community leaders and emergency managers have read this book.
This unique and readable book examines the complex issues associated with wildfire evacuation planning, execution, and recovery in First Nations communities in Canada. The practical guiding questions at the end of each chapter ensure that this book will be useful to anyone working in Indigenous and remote communities around the world that are facing wildfire challenges.
Tara K. McGee is a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta. Her work focuses on the human dimensions of wildfire – including wildfire mitigation and preparedness by homeowners and governments – as well as on how people respond to wildfires, including evacuation decision-making, evacuations, and recovery. Amy Cardinal Christianson is a Métis woman from Treaty 8 territory, currently living in Treaty 6, and a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada. Her research explores Indigenous fire stewardship, Indigenous wildland firefighters, wildfire evacuations, and Indigenous research methodology. Amy also co-hosts the Good Fire podcast, which looks at Indigenous fire use around the world. The First Nations Wildfire Evacuation Partnership is made up of representatives from seven First Nations, as well as researchers and agencies involved in providing support during wildfire evacuations. Its aim is to learn about how First Nation peoples and communities have been affected by evacuations and to make recommendations for how to reduce their negative impacts.
Foreword / Chad Day
1 Deciding to Evacuate
2 Putting a Plan in Motion
3 Troubleshooting Transportation
4 Finding Accommodations
5 Taking Care of Evacuees
6 Returning Home
A Note on the Partnership
Further Resources and References; Index
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