Canadian Forest Service Publications

Wildfire evacuation experiences of band members of Whitefish Lake First Nation 459, Alberta, Canada. Christianson, A. C., & McGee, T. K. (2019). Natural Hazards, 98(1), 9-29.

Year: 2019

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40427

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-018-3556-9

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Abstract

This paper presents results of a study which examined how a mandatory wildfire evacuation affected members of Whitefish Lake First Nation 459, in Alberta, Canada. A qualitative case study approach was used, and semi-structured interviews were completed with 45 band members to learn about their evacuation experiences during the wildfire evacuation in May 2011 and explore the factors that complicated the evacuation process and put further strain on the evacuees and First Nation. This evacuation caused considerable distress for evacuees and had negative effects for the First Nation. Factors that affected evacuation experiences included: (1) transportation issues compounded by cultural land-use activities, (2) fear of home loss compounded by existing housing shortages, (3) information and lack of media interest, (4) language, (5) poverty, (6) large multi-generational families, (7) health concerns, and (8) reimbursement of evacuation-related expenses to the community. An overarching factor that affected the entire evacuation was jurisdiction. Based on these findings, recommendations are provided for emergency managers on improving wildfire evacuation experiences for Indigenous peoples.

Plain Language Summary

This study examined how a mandatory wildfire evacuation affected members of Whitefish Lake First Nation 459, in Alberta, Canada in May 2011. Interviews were conducted to learn about evacuation experiences and explore the factors that complicated the evacuation process. This evacuation caused considerable distress for evacuees and caused negative effects for the First Nation. Factors that affected evacuation experiences included transportation, fear of home loss, lack of media interest, language, poverty, large families, health concerns and reimbursement of evacuation related expenses. An overarching factor that affected the entire evacuation was jurisdiction. The participants and the research team have identified various recommendations to improve future wildfire evacuations for Indigenous peoples.