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Wildfire fighters sound alarm ahead of 2024 wildfire season

Alberta Wildfire is suffering a retention and recruitment crisis that began four years ago under the previous UCP government.

Feb 15, 2024

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EDMONTON—The Government of Alberta’s failure to hire and retain dedicated wildfire fighting staff threatens Albertans’ safety, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). 

AUPE members working for Alberta Wildfire say the organization is suffering a retention and recruitment crisis that began four years ago under the previous UCP government. AUPE Vice-President James Gault says the crisis is a result of mismanagement, high turnover, and subpar working conditions. 

“The government claims that it is prepared for this fire season, but Albertans should be concerned that this is very likely not the case. Premier Smith must fix the problem at its source,” says Gault. “Many of our experienced wildfire fighters are leaving for other organizations that offer better pay, benefits, and stable employment. That is a systemic problem that cannot be solved with emergency hires mid-wildfire season.” 

The previous UCP government made several cuts to wildfire fighting services, including the number of jobs in watchtowers and the specialized programs. Losing leaders in Alberta Wildfire to more competitive organizations, such as British Columbia Wildfire Service and Parks Canada, makes the situation worse. 

Wildfires burned a record-breaking 2.2 million hectares in Alberta during the extreme 2023 season, 10 times more than average. As Alberta prepares for extreme drought and agricultural disaster in 2024, AUPE members warn the upcoming wildfire season will threaten lives across the province, including their own. 

“Wildfire fighters put themselves at risk to protect us, but the staffing crisis makes their job more dangerous than it needs to be,” says Gault. 

“Recent wildfire emergencies in Slave Lake, Fort McMurray, High Level, Evansburg, Edson, Drayton Valley, and more, prove wildfires threaten Albertans across the province. Premier Smith must act to support Alberta Wildfire staff and, by extension, all Albertans.” 

AUPE is western Canada’s largest union, standing over 95,000 members strong. Approximately 20,000 AUPE members work for the provincial government, including wildfire fighting services. 


For more information or to schedule an interview with Vice-President Gault, please contact: 

Rae Carlson, AUPE Communications Officer, at or 403-351-2360. 

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