Alberta Wildfire Season Now Underway

Wildfire season is underway in Alberta. The UCP government has declared an early start to the 2024 wildfire season, ten days earlier than the usual Mar. 1 kickoff.

The government says the impacts of the 2023 season showed the importance of a collective approach to dealing with disaster, and with Alberta experiencing warmer-than-normal temperatures and below-average precipitation, wildfire risk is heightened.

“Alberta’s government will face the coming wildfire season head-on, and we will do whatever is necessary to help Albertans and their communities stay safe from the impacts of wildfire. I want to encourage Albertans to remain vigilant and recreate responsibly,” said  Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks in a media release Tuesday afternoon.

The government says Forestry and Parks are preparing for additional firefighters. Budget 2024, if passed, includes funding to hire 100 new firefighters, giving Alberta five extra 20-person crews.

But as Alberta enters the 2024 wildfire season, the government encourages all Albertans to become familiar with FireSmart principles and to take an active role in wildfire prevention and mitigation by preparing their properties and communities accordingly.

Alberta Wildfire Executive Director Bernie Schmitte said wildfire prevention is a responsibility shared by all Albertans. “I encourage everyone to follow FireSmart principles, to recreate responsibly while in or near forested areas, to obtain a fire permit prior to burning and to download the Alberta Wildfire app for up-to-date and accurate information,” Schmitte said.

Alberta’s NDP Opposition was critical of the early launch, calling it not enough for Albertans, their communities or wildland firefighters.

“Even though the government knew there were active wildfires burning underground over the winter, the UCP laid off wildland firefighters for the season and waited until the beginning of the 2024 wildfire season to start hiring with no training time,” said Alberta NDP Critic for Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development  Heather Sweet. “There are currently 54 wildfires burning in the province, and with extreme drought expected, we know that this year’s wildfire season has the potential to be worse than 2023.”

Sweet went on to say work on fire season  should have started months ago and that the UCP should collaborate with the federal emergency management committee to create a federal fire fighting task force, and work with all orders of governments to prevent loss.

“We need year-round wildland firefighters to ensure there are ready and trained boots on the ground for every start of every wildfire season,” Sweet said.

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