As Fort McMurray claims continue, town faces new wildfire threat

Published: June 12, 2018

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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In May 2016, the Albertan town of Fort McMurray was hit by a huge wildfire that resulted in a month-long evacuation of 90,000 people. It also became the biggest insurance loss in Canadian history. So much so, the effects of the event are still being felt with hundreds of claims still open. However, residents in the town and across Alberta remains at threat from fire.

A report released last week titled, Building Resilience to the Economic Threat of Invasive Species suggests the spread of mountain pine needle has put Albertans under significant threat from a major wildfire again. “Alberta residents are again worried about wildfire risks in their backyard, this time due to the spread of the mountain pine beetle.”

The report was authored by students at John Hopkins University and funded by Swiss Re Institute. In the report the researches point out beetles infect pine trees and turn them red. The result of these infections leaves a distinct visual impact on forests and has already destroyed 16 million hectares in British Columbia.

Researchers warn that there is a less-researched link between red beetle needles and wildfires.

With hundreds of claims from the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire still unresolved as of late last month, Alberta residents could be forgiven for still worrying about wildfire risks in their own backyard.

A major wildfire would be a major problem for residents in Fort McMurray, many of whom are still in the claims process from the 2016 fire. Alberta’s Minister of Finance and president of the Treasury Board, Joe Ceci, said last month there is still claims to be made and an extension has been made for the claims to be fulfilled.

“Let me be clear that there will be a blanket extension within which to file claims for an additional year,” he said at the time. “Our government has been in touch with every insurance company in Alberta and the vast majority have already agreed to grant these extensions voluntary. Should a company choose not to grant this extension, our government is ready and prepared to amend the legislation to ensure residents are being treated fairly and given the additional year to resolve their claims or file legal action.”