M.D. of Acadia unhappy with ATCO response to wildfire

M.D. of Acadia councillors directed their Chief Administrative Officer, Brent Williams to respond to an ATCO letter written Nov. 3 that they considered “had such a tone of finality and absolution to be disheartening and disappointing”.
In the Atco Electric letter dated November 3, the ATCO investigator confirmed an ATCO transmission line was the origin of the fire.
In response to ATCO Electric in their letter, Williams related the devastation.
“The wildfire events of Oct. 17 caused widespread destruction to around 13,000 acres of farmland.
“During the course of this fire, one gentleman lost his home and his yard and virtually everything he owns. Another lost over half of this home farmyard, most of his grain, half of his equipment, and a shop.
“One ranching operation lost over 180 head of cattle, basically two thirds of the entire herd.
“Yet another rancher lost five cattle and is treating around 130 more for sickness and is unsure of their market value or their chance of survival through the winter.
“Another two producers lost practically all of their winter feed. The Meridian Brethren Hutterites lost 12 farm structures, 55,000 bushels of grain, three combine headers and dozens of tools and equipment pieces across two destroyed farmyards.
“Another local family-farm lost a horse, 20 miles of fence, grain bins, vehicles, trailers, and other equipment essential to their agriculture operation.
“All of this is without even mentioning the long-term damage done to thousands of acres of grasslands that producers use to graze cattle; or to the cropland, which has experienced significant top-soil erosion since this wildfire, of which the effects are not yet known.
The letter to ATCO went on the say,
“The people affected by this event are members of our community. We have been picking up the pieces together since Oct. 17 and will continue to do so.
“Perhaps the most difficult part of this situation is that these people lost so much through no fault or action of their own.
“ATCO has been in this community for many years; your distribution staff worked tirelessly the evening of the 17th and in the following days to restore power and service to our community; and your infrastructure continues cross large swaths of our landscape.
“We all understand that this tragedy was not intentional; however, people expect ATCO to be a good corporate citizen and communicate with the MD of Acadia, its residents, and especially with those who lost so much through the failing of ATCO infrastructure.
“We are not just your customers or your collateral damage; we are your neighbours.
“With regards to the curtness of the statement, it provides practically no information on the investigation that ATCO performed.
“We believe that people deserve to have a conversation and to have some questions answered, such as:
• What were the other findings of ATCO’s investigation?
• What is the age of these transmission poles?
• What type of maintenance schedule does ATCO follow for them?
• What is weather rating for this infrastructure, as the pole at the origin of the fire failed when the wind speed was not yet at its peak?
• How can we work together to prevent this from happening again?
“ATCO’s lack of communication since this event on Oct. 17 is unfortunate; as is the complete absence of meaningful contact with the community, or with the affected property owners, or with the dozens of first-responders that risked their lives trying to battle a wildfire that ATCO’s infrastructure played a role in igniting.
“We deserve better than this, and we know that ATCO can do better.”

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