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Alberta highlights wildfire protection funding in Budget 2014

EDMONTON – The government of Alberta outlined Tuesday the funding it set aside for wildfire protection in the provincial budget: a commitment of $115 million over three years.

Budget 2014 contributes $31 million in the 2014-2015 year, and $115 million as part of a long-term commitment responding to the 21 recommendations from the Flat Top Complex Wildfire Review.

READ MORE: Province accepts all recommendations in the Slave Lake wildfire report 

More than one-third of the money will be spent on FireSmart projects, including tree thinning and removal work around communities.

“The FireSmart Program delivers significant benefits to Alberta communities at risk—anything we can do related to wildfire prevention and mitigation is critical,” said Todd Nash, general manager of Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA).

Funding will also go towards enhancing emergency response planning, hiring more firefighters for longer periods of time, and public education in forested communities.

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Nineteen communities across the province will benefit from funding.

“Learning from disasters is important and the knowledge we gained from the Slave Lake wildfire is being put into practice,” said Robin Campbell, minister of environment and sustainable resource development.

“Our government is taking action to protect both our communities and our forests.”

The $31 million in this year’s budget comes after a contribution of $18 million in 2013-2014 to address the recommendations in the Flat Top Complex Wildfire Review.

READ MORE: Report on Slave Lake wildfire calls for more advisories and initial response crews 

The Flat Top Complex Review was a committee created by the province to address concerns in the wake of the massive Slave Lake area fires.

The cost of the Slave Lake wildfires, including damage, firefighting and recovery programs, has been estimated at around $1 billion.

The town did not have a detailed FireSmart plan before the wildfire.

With files from The Canadian Press

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