$6.5M cut from Alberta Environment’s Firesmart program

The Slave Lake wildfire in May 2011.
The Slave Lake wildfire in May 2011. File/Global News

EDMONTON — The Alberta government plans to reduce funding for preventing and fighting wildfires this year to save money.

Alberta Environment’s budget calls for $6.5 million less in spending for Firesmart, a program that includes cash for clearing brush and trees away from communities in forested areas.

The department’s business plan also cuts the number of air-tanker groups the government will hire this year to eight from nine to save $2 million.

READ MORE: Alberta highlights wildfire protection funding in Budget 2014 

An air-tanker group usually consists of a spotter aircraft and one or more air tankers that can drop water or fire retardant on flaming timber.

The province also plans to hire one less ground firefighting crew.

READ MORE: Alberta Budget 2015 Winners and Losers 

Department spokeswoman Carolyn Stuparyk says if there is a wildfire emergency, the province will still be able to quickly hire more firefighters or bring in staff and equipment from across North America.

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Alberta’s wildfire season began March 1.

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

The government has been getting ready early for wildfires since the May 2011 blaze that destroyed about one-third of the town of Slave Lake.

Alberta Environment faces $35 million in budget cuts and about half the savings will come from not filling 150 jobs.

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