The May 2011 Wildfires in the Slave Lake area brought international attention to a rural area that was devastated from the aftermath of some of the worst fires in our provincial history. Who could forget the images of the burnt basements, destroyed vehicles and residents living in evacuation centres? Such a disaster invites us to ask ourselves if we are ready for catastrophes of this magnitude in our own community and what role should public policy play in mitigating the effects.

This presentation focuses on what we have found out about the human impacts of fires based upon information collected in the Slave Lake area. In particular, highlights of the effects on families and children and the communities in general will be discussed. Lessons learned from the event with key messages for other communities will also be discussed in order to stimulate the audience to think about their own preparedness for such disasters evidenced by several large grass fires that recently forced evacuations in Lethbridge and other communities in the area.

Speaker: Judith C. Kulig

Dr. Judith Kulig is a Professor within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta. Her research program is focused on rural health issues, which has included examining the human costs of wildfires. She is senior co-editor of Health in Rural Canada, the only comprehensive book of its kind in Canada that examines rural health issues in our country.

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