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Is Alberta ready to fight forest fires? Albertans need answers

Minister’s comments create confusion over wildland firefighter

Apr 29, 2024

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EDMONTON – Alberta Minister of Forestry and Parks Todd Loewen has some explaining to do regarding the province’s readiness to fight wildfires, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). 

“Today, the minister said that recruiting for seasonal workers to fight wildfires finished ‘a month or two ago.’ But on April 18, he said that 30 to 35 were being hired each week. Both can’t be true,” says James Gault, vice-president of AUPE, which represents workers in the Ministry of Forestry and Parks, including seasonal wildland firefighters. 

Albertans deserve answers to a lot of questions arising from the media conference Minister Loewen held today (Mon. Apr. 29). 

  • Of the 1,000 seasonal firefighters that the minister says have signed up, how many are still in training? 

  • The Alberta government announced that the fire season started on Feb. 20 this year, more than two months ago. This time of year is high risk, with the snow melted, the undergrowth dry, and no greening up yet. Why aren't we at full strength and fully trained already? 

  • Fewer than half of last year’s seasonal firefighters have signed up again this year, with many leaving for jobs with the B.C. government and Parks Canada. Why is Alberta failing to rehire people it has already paid to train and who have experience? 

  • Why are some fire crews in Alberta being led by workers with only two years of experience, leading crews with even less experience? 

  • If Alberta has enough trained firefighters, why are some municipalities not getting the help they need? 

“The minister spoke about air tankers and night-vision helicopters,” says Gault. “But fighting wildfires is not just about equipment and boots on the ground. It's about the experience of the firefighters wearing those boots.  

“Alberta's problem is that we have failed to retain firefighters from previous years – firefighters it has paid to train – and are now forced to put out crews who lack the depth of experience that is needed. This failure is putting firefighters and Albertans at risk.” 

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AUPE VP James Gault is available for interviews.  

For information, please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer at 403-831-4394 or t.inigo-jones@aupe.org 

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  • Media release

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