The problem that occurred was due to the fact that right now most fires near aboriginal communities are left to burn out, according to the laws of nature, and no action is taken to monitor or avert the possible outbreak in these sections. Why can't the evacuation be averted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, by putting out the small fires near the community? They wait until they escalate.
The water bombers were deployed to another area. They're not deployed until it's a real emergency in our area. These are some of the things that people don't realize happen in the remote areas of the country. Why do they wait and spend millions of dollars on evacuations when they can avert these situations with early intervention? In the past we would ask our local able-bodied men to be trained by traditional forest fire fighters. We'd go out there with these elderly gentlemen who knew how to tackle the fires, and we would put out the small fires before they escalated to major fires. But now we are told by the Nature Conservancy not to engage the fires. So another strategy needs to be embarked on.
Yes, we have lots of water around. However, there are no assets to pump the water to douse the fires. This happens. Also, in the past, as I mentioned, our community was threatened by fire three times. We took the initiative to deploy our heavy equipment to create a firebreak, and we saved a $30,000 school complex. If it were up to the strategy the government was utilizing, we probably would have lost the school and would have been back again on the list trying to get a new school.
In other cases where we did our own emergency measures, we evacuated a minimal number of people. But as in this case, we are asked by the government if it's time to mobilize people in danger, and we say, yes, we declare it. That's what they give to the first nation council. Now, when the people get to the city, they are at the whim of whether an important convention is happening. We go to the hotels. We had to move elders around to accommodate venues that had been booked beforehand, because the province did not declare a state of emergency. Two hoteliers who look after the Radisson here in the city said that back in 1997 when the flood took place south of Winnipeg, they were able to cancel venues to accommodate these people so they were not disrupted. They were traumatized as it was, and they wanted to leave them in that place.
That was never done for us. We were moving elderly people, small families, all over the city, wherever there was space. They could not stay in these places, especially in the soccer compound, because that facility is kept very cold because of the athletic activities. So they're asked to sleep in there on cots. If you've ever tried to sleep on a canvas cot or an air mattress out in the cold, there's no insulation below. A couple of our elders caught pneumonia from that.