May 25th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 21
Pass resident brought out of retirement to help fight Fort Mac fire
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald contributor photo
Darryl Johnson during his flight over the Fort McMurray fire. Johnson was asked by the government to help with the emergency situation in the city.
Pass Herald Reporter
Retirement will have to wait for Darryl Johnson.

A fire, which has come to be known as "the beast," that destroyed 2,400 homes and businesses, and displaced upward of 94,000 people from around Fort McMurray won’t let him retire.

The government of Alberta has reenlisted the Crowsnest resident to help with the emergency situation in Fort McMurray.

During his decades in forestry, he’s been involved in a number of disasters from the 2003 Lost Creek Fire to the 2011 Slave Lake wild fire. He says the one in Fort McMurray is the worst by far.

“In my 39 years, I’ve never worked on an incident that’s been this complex,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate for the folks who’ve lost so much. It’s a major disaster.”

He spent two weeks in Fort McMurray working as a wildfire operations specialist for the Provincial Forest Fire Centre.

“They’ve rehired me specifically for the interim, it’s a temporary assignment,” he said. “As long as they need my services, I’ll be available. When they no longer need me, I’ll go back and start planning my retirement calendar.”
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He was back in the Pass for May long weekend but returned to Fort McMurray on May 24 for up to three weeks to serve in the Regional Emergency Operations Center as an incident leader.

He said he was happy to postpone his retirement but regretted he’d be missing the 22nd annual Ed Gregor Stewardship Day, which will be held June 4 at the Blairmore Ranger Station.

“I am sad to have to miss this one,” he said. “I have only missed two in the past 22 years and on both occasions it was to be sent out on active forest fire duty somewhere else in the province.”

On May 22, the Fort McMurray wildfire was estimated to cover 522,892 hectares, including 741 hectares in Saskatchewan. That’s up from the 504,443 hectares it covered Saturday afternoon.
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Preparations continue for the return of residents. Gas and electricity have been restored to about 90 per cent of undamaged structures.

Premier Rachel Notley has stated Fort McMurray-area residents will be allowed to return home on a voluntary basis starting June 1, provided the fire is no longer a threat to the community, basic infrastructure is restored, local government is reestablished and other conditions.

Cooler temperatures and rain are in the forecast for the region this week, which is good news for those fighting the fire.
May 25th ~ Vol. 85 No. 21
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