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G4S supports wildfires response in Alberta

G4S Canada provides security at two of the largest oil sands locations in the Fort McMurray area and quickly became heavily involved in the evacuation process when wildfires threatened this part of Alberta in early May. At peak times, hundreds of G4S employees and many G4S vehicles were deployed around the city, helping to secure abandoned homes, businesses and other critical infrastructure.


Hundreds of G4S employees and many G4S vehicleswere deployed in Fort McMurray

“Nearly 3,000 evacuees arrived at the work camp site, and our team worked closely with our client’s security management team to ensure their safety and that they had sufficient food and shelter for several days,” explained Dennis Ellahi, vice-president, Western Region, who oversaw the G4S operation.

“As well as looking after the general health and safety of the evacuees, we were also charged with controlling the traffic entering the camp and crowd management – essentially helping to make sure everything remained calm and organized during a very stressful situation.”

On May 3, as the wildfires reached Fort McMurray itself, the energy company operating the camp decided to send non-essential employees home to make room for additional evacuees.

“I received a call late that night asking if we could deploy personnel to the client’s airports hangars in Calgary and Edmonton, to assist their staff arriving by plane,” said Ellahi.

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“Within two hours, we’d dispatched full crews to the hangars, and for the next few days they worked round the clock as flights arrived from the oil sands operation.”

Ellahi continued: “The G4S leadership team there is comprised of former senior law enforcement and military personnel, and we were called on to provide leadership and direction during the evacuation. Our team helped make sure all the workers were evacuated onto flights back to Calgary and Edmonton.”

As the fires began to subside in Fort McMurray towards the end of May, G4S was tasked with re-entering the city to assist the cleanup operation and ready the way for evacuees to return to their homes.

At peak times, hundreds of G4S employees and many G4S vehicles have been deployed around the city, helping to secure abandoned homes, businesses and other critical infrastructure.

The G4S team is securing and providing access to critical points within the city, controlling access to areas deemed safe to return to and preventing access to those deemed unsafe for entry.

Ellahi explained: “Within that access control function, our tasks include fire watch – which is reporting hot spots or new fires to the emergency services – and general observe-and-report functions.”

There have been constant reminders of the ever-present threat from the wildfires still raging in the area.

One major problem facing emergency workers and potentially even returning evacuees is the influx of wildlife from the surrounding forests – attracted by the food left behind by residents, shops and restaurants during the evacuation.

“Fort McMurray is a city in the middle of the forest,” said Dennis. “Much wildlife died in the fires and the rest fled, but as the flames moved away the animals made their way back and began to search for food.

“The deserted city has become a favourite spot for everything from birds and foxes to bears.”

Another of the responsibilities of the G4S team in Fort McMurray has been to secure a number of checkpoints in and out of the city, monitoring and reporting the activities of wildlife.

“We’ve had one or two encounters with wildlife, such as when a deer jumped in front of a patrol vehicle, but our colleagues have been through wildlife awareness training and are equipped to manage the situation,” said Ellahi.

The region faces a long road to recovery in the aftermath of the fire. G4S, which has an office in Fort McMurray and has a long traditional of providing security services to the region, will remain engaged in helping the residents and its various customers in and around northern Alberta for the short and long-term.