Union raises concerns about wildfire preparedness

Alberta’s wildfire season officially starts March 1st, and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) is sounding the alarm over the government’s preparedness.

AUPE says the Government of Alberta’s failure to hire and retain dedicated wildfire fighting staff threatens Albertans’ safety.

Members of AUPE employed by Alberta Wildfire say that the organization has been grappling with a retention and recruitment dilemma for four years. James Gault, Vice-President of AUPE, attributes this crisis to factors such as mismanagement, high turnover rates, and below-par 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,” says Gault.

“Many of our experienced wildfire fighters are leaving for other organizations that offer better pay, benefits, and stable employment.”

The Union says that previous UCP governments made several cuts to wildfire fighting services and resources which included several jobs in fire lookout towers and other specialized programs.

“That is a systemic problem that cannot be solved with emergency hires mid-wildfire season,” added Gault.

AUPE is calling on the Premier and Government of Alberta to address the problem and ensure Alberta Wildfire can retain dedicated wildfire fighting staff to serve the public.

Todd Lowe, Minister of Forestry and Parks will hold a press conference to update the public on the official start of the 2024 wildfire season and a budget request for additional firefighters on Tuesday, February 20th at 1 p.m.

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