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Wildland firefighters to Albertans: We need your help

Government ignoring brave crews on the front lines of forest fires

May 07, 2024

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EDMONTON – Wildland firefighters are calling on Albertans to help send a message to the provincial government: It’s time to take our fears seriously. 

“Firefighters and others in the department of Natural Resources have been warning the government for months that we’re not ready for fire season,” says James Gault, vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents these workers. 

“We’ve told the government there is a retention-and-recruitment crisis for seasonal firefighters. More than 50% of last year’s crews have not come back,” he says. “This has left us with some crew leads who have only two years of experience leading teams who have even less experience.” 

Despite rain yesterday and today in some parts of the province, fire season this year is shaping up to be worse than last year. There are currently 40 active wildfires, while 253 have been extinguished.  

There have already been evacuations at the Cold Lake First Nation and in the Peace River district, including nearly 200 inmates at the correctional centre. 

“The government said the fire season began in February, but here we are in May and Minister of Forestry and Parks Todd Loewen admits we’re not yet fully staffed or trained,” says Gault.  

“He claims we’ll achieve that on May 15. He said earlier we’d be ready on April 15, but we weren’t. One day he says we’re hiring 35 people every week and the next he says we finished hiring two months ago. We simply cannot trust what the minister says,” he adds. 

“Wildland firefighters are angry. They’re tired of being ignored. The government won’t listen to them, so we are calling on Albertans to speak out on their behalf.” 

AUPE is launching a campaign that asks Albertans to tell their MLAs: It’s time to take wildland firefighting fears seriously. They can do that by visiting the campaign page at https://www.aupe.org/wildlandfirefighters

“These firefighters are risking their lives to keep Albertans safe. They’re too busy protecting us to campaign, so they need Albertans to be their voice. The government has been deaf to the workers. Will they be deaf to voters, too?” 

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AUPE VP James Gault is available for interviews. 

For information, please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer, at 780-863-7850 or t.inigo-jones@aupe.org

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