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100 additional wildland firefighters among items listed for provincial wildfire mitigation budget

Minister of Forestry and Parks Todd Loewen made an appearance in Grande Prairie on March 1st to speak on the provincial government’s plans to mitigate wildfire risk going into the warm season.

The province’s 2024-25 budget included numerous wildfire-fighting technologies and items such as increased night vision helicopter capacity, increased drone presence, and the continuation of Artificial Intelligence capabilities.

Additionally, Minister Loewen has been quite vocal regarding recruitment strategies for boots-on-the-ground firefighting personnel, and plans to recruit 100 more firefighters are in place in preparation for the 2024 wildfire season.

“I want to reassure Albertans that we are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best in the wildfire season ahead,” Minister Loewen says.

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Loeewen says the province will be facing the anticipated wildfire problem on an as-needed basis for regions.

“When we’re considering where to put equipment and personnel, we look at the conditions and we evaluate where the most likely place they’ll be needed and we do that across Alberta, if this region is deemed to be in most need, that’s where the resources will go.”

Locally, fire departments around the north have been upping their recruitment efforts by offering paid training opportunities and Minister Loewen says recruitment has been successful so far.

“It’s going really good, in fact, it’s one of the best years for recruiting that we’ve had, I think because of the wildfires last year there’s a lot more awareness and people looking for jobs,” he says.

In terms of funding, local fire departments are managed and funded by their municipalities, and therefore, it will be unlikely for any of them to receive any additional funding from the province directly; however, Loewen says firefighting and mitigation strategies seem to be front of mind for several communities.

“I’m not sure if there’s going to be more funding going to those per se,” he says. “I’m guessing that everyone is a little more aware, a little more concerned going into this fire season.”

With the unseasonably warm and dry conditions much of the province has experienced this winter, Minister Loewen and his colleagues say they are anticipating a “tough season,” but he says spending and efforts could greatly depend on potential weather shifts.

“The indications are that we could have a tough season based on the snowfall and rain and the weather conditions we’ve had this winter,” he says. “It would only take a couple nice snow storms like we had last weekend and a few nice rains in the Spring that could make all the difference in the world.”

Minister Loewen says recruitment for the additional 100 firefighters will begin upon approval by the provincial government.

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