Edmonton ships unprecedented aid to Calgary

As the worry about local flooding dissipates in Edmonton, officials are now turning their attention to help water-ravaged southern Alberta.

A mutual-aid agreement has been in place between the cities for 8 years; this is the first time it has ever been used

A convoy of personnel, equipment and emergency vehicles shipped out from Edmonton Sunday afternoon to help officials in Calgary deal with the aftermath of major flooding. (CBC)

As the worry about local flooding dissipates in Edmonton, officials are now turning their attention to help water-ravaged southern Alberta.

"This has been a good-news story for Edmonton. Now we need to help Calgary as much as we can," said Chris Ward, drainage services manager for the the City of Edmonton.

On Sunday afternoon, the Edmonton fire department deployed a major convoy of personnel and equipment to Calgary to help respond to the floods.

"We received a call from Calgary — a request for assistance — earlier this morning around 7 a.m. and we've put together a contingent of fire rescue members from Edmonton," said fire chief Ken Block.

The fire department started calling off-duty officers around 8 a.m. to see if any would be willing to travel south for a three-day shift.

Block said that within three hours, they had 60 volunteers, all of whom had been on their long-term days off.

The Edmonton fire department also sent six pieces of heavy equipment, including pump trucks, a rescue vehicle, a tanker and the city's backup hazmat unit, to support Calgary's strained resources.

"I'll give our edmonton firefighters tremendous credit — we've put this all together on very short notice and short request, and on a weekend these are folks that are on their days off," said Block. "It's an outstanding response to have them show up en masse this morning."

Edmonton to provide assistance for as long as required

The Edmonton volunteers, which include six safety officers, will help Calgary crews inspect the estimated 25,000 buildings — ranging from house to high rises — that were evacuated during the flood.

All structures affected by flooding must be evaluated before residents can move back in, Block said.

Edmonon fire chief Ken Block said he's never before seen this amount of personnel and equipment shipped out. (CBC)

Although this first wave of volunteer firefighters is scheduled to be in Calgary for only three days, Block said the fire department is prepared to continuously re-supply crews on a three-day basis until their help is no longer required.

"That's an awful lot of buildings to go through. I expect it will take a considerable amount of time," said Block.

Block said Edmonton will not be left in a lurch, as only a third of the city's firefighters on long-term vacation will be deployed to Calgary at a time.

"It will not affect the service to our citizens at all."

‘Once in a lifetime event’

While a mutual-aid agreement has been in place between the two cities' fires department for eight years, Block said it has never before been put into action.

In fact, he said he's never before seen this level of support roll out in his 33 years of service with the Edmonton fire department.

"This is a once in a lifetime event — unbelievable in its magnitude and how its affected Calgary and its citizens and service," said Block.

"They're into their third, fourth day of dealing with this and they're going to be absolutely exhausted, so I'm very proud, as fire chief, that we're able to provide some assistance to them. I absolutely know they'd be there for us."

Earlier this weekend, 100 Edmonton police officers were deployed to Calgary to help maintain order during evacuations.

EPCOR has also sent several crews to help restore power, said spokesman Tim LeRiche.

Mayor Stephen Mandel said Monday that all Edmonton city departments will stay in close contact with their parallel offices in Calgary, and will send additional resources as needed.

"We will send down everyone we possibly can, as long as we're not leaving the city of Edmonton in any jeopardy," he said.