Firefighters Question Alberta Cuts to Aerial Attack Teams as Province Battles Blazes

EDMONTON — Former members of an elite Alberta wildfire-fighting crew say government budget cuts have left the province battling its current blazes short-handed.

“We could have been difference-makers,” said Jordan Erlandson, a former member of Alberta’s Rapattack team.

Those firefighters were trained to rappel from helicopters to get at wildfires while they still only covered a few hectares. When one storm sparked several fires, they could extinguish them before they merged. They also cleared landing spaces for other helicopters to bring in crews and gear.

That program once had 63 firefighters stationed around the province, including at Edson, Fox Creek and Lac La Biche — communities now threatened by one of the busiest early fire seasons in provincial history.

But that program was cut in 2019 by the United Conservatives.

“They told us the program had been eliminated,” said former member Adam Clyne. “They just said budget.”

The saving was $1.4 million. The province’s wildfire budget for 2019 was about $117 million.

At the time, Devin Dreeshen, then minister of agriculture and forestry, said those firefighters spend only two per cent of the time rappelling from helicopters, and spend the rest of the time fighting wildfires on the ground. That figure is based on the number of times rappelling skills were used in the average of more than 1,400 fires in Alberta from 2014 to 2018.

Read more on this story at Yahoo News

AerialFire Staff
AerialFire Staff
AerialFire Magazine strives to provide you with breaking aerial firefighting industry news and information.

Latest Print Edition

Latest Articles

Related articles