The government of Alberta is taking more steps to prepare for what could be a busy wildfire season.

They are making substantial investments in wildfire prevention, preparedness, and response to ensure communities are equipped for the upcoming 2024 wildfire season.

The Community Fireguard Program stands as a crucial resource for communities to educate residents and reduce the threat of significant wildfires. This year, an extra $14 million has been allocated to the program in the budget, bolstering support for Alberta communities to a total of $19 million. Moreover, the budget includes funding for two extra air tanker groups and two newly equipped helicopters with night vision capabilities.

“I am encouraged by the increased interest in both the FireSmart and Fireguard Programs this year. Albertans and their communities are wanting to better prepare themselves against the dangers of wildfire,” stated Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks.

The effectiveness of Alberta Wildfire's first attack, sustained action, and suppression efforts will be increased with the addition of two air tanker groups and two new helicopters equipped with night vision. When a wildfire starts, air tankers are essential in stopping its spread so that ground crews may completely put out the fire by stopping its fuel sources.

In addition, the provincial government also stated the deployment of more air tankers and night vision helicopters will support Alberta's improved night operations, which were tested during the wildfire season of 2023 and enable better suppression efforts and overnight heli-tanking. Because nighttime temperatures are usually lower and humidity levels are higher, wildfire behaviour is generally more restrained. This increases the likelihood and capacity to put out fires.

"Last fall, Alberta’s government launched the Community Fireguard Program with an initial investment of $5 million. The program, which is administered by the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta, helps protect communities by clearing the area near or surrounding a community that breaks the path of a wildfire to cut it off from fuel sources that could potentially drive it toward property, infrastructure or other values at risk," mentioned the province.

According to the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard, there are 47 active wildfires in the province. Wildfire season officially started back on February 20, which is 10 days earlier than usual. In 2023, a total of 1,094 wildfires burned 2,214,957 hectares. Sixty-seven percent of wildfires over the last five years have been caused by people.

Information provided by Connor May/Discover Airdrie