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Fort McMurray fire top of mind for Emergency Preparedness Week

May 8, 2019

“It’s so surreal that a community that was so busy with activity could be devastated so quickly. It felt like a scene from a movie,” Cameron remembers as he methodically scrolled through the pictures he had taken while assessing the damages of the fire that scorched the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo [RMWB] where Fort McMurray is located. “It was scary, firefighters were still battling fires along the roads while we were there.”

The fires in Fort McMurray began Sunday, May 1, 2016, and led to one of the largest evacuations in Canada and largest in Alberta. AUMA’s Will Burtenshaw, Senior Director Risk and Claims and Cameron Vierboom, Director Claims for AUMA were responsible for assessing the damage to the municipality.

“When the wildfires struck the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, we immediately mobilized our team dedicated to dealing with catastrophic claims,” recalls Will as he glanced at the plaque that was given to his team by the RMWB. The team engaged included special risk adjusters, certified appraisers, engineers, and restoration contractors to prioritize the restoration work.

The claims were triaged using satellite photos to view the buildings in the fire ravaged areas. As soon as authorities allowed the AUMA team and claim adjusters on the ground in Fort McMurray, they toured each property and evaluated the damages.

“In total, over $30 million has been paid out and all claims settled in two years,” Will said. “In evaluating the strategies used, we have become better advocates for our members, and we have been able to forge great partnerships to improve contract negotiations.”

In addition to the insurance and claims services, AUMA has invested in risk management programs, including agility recovery to help protect organizational operations during a disaster situation. Agility membership includes the four elements of a recovery: power generators, mobile office space, satellite connectivity for phone and internet, and technology including computers and servers. More information on risk management can be found on the AUMA website.

Should you have questions, please contact us at 310.AUMA(2865) or via e-mail at