The Alberta government is cutting half a million dollars in grant funding for firefighter training.
An information bulletin from the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA) said a letter was sent out from the minister of municipal affairs announcing the cuts, which is the entire amount of funding available for firefighter training.
The AFCA goes on to say: “The elimination of this training grant will directly impact volunteer departments already under stress in both small communities and rural communities.”
Clayton Rutberg with the Coaldale Fire Department said it’s disappointing to hear about the funding cuts.
“Training is critical to their safety and the safety of the public so it’s quite essential that they do get that minimum amount of training.”
Municipal affairs spokesperson Timothy Gerwig issued a statement:
“The delivery of fire services is a municipal responsibility, meaning fire departments and their training budgets are funded by local governments.
“Given this, we have dissolved a small training grant that was developed in better economic times.
“We value the tremendous work firefighters do and continue to work with municipalities across the province to ensure public safety is protected.”
The government said the cuts should not have much of an impact on training or services.
However, Rutberg said where it will be felt is in the budget.
Last year, thousands of dollars in grant money were used for beefing up training for all five departments in Lethbridge County.
“We did receive $16,000 to put on eight different courses locally throughout the county, so that is a fairly large amount of money that we did have for training that we didn’t have to have out of our operating budgets.”
The AFCA said it’s concerned small communities in rural areas will feel the cut.
The information bulletin reads, in part: “The AFCA will demonstrate the undesirable consequences to Albertans, Alberta municipalities and Alberta politicians, and the risks that such a cut in training may cause.
“The AFCA is concerned that volunteer and career firefighters will be put at risk due to cutbacks in training.”
The AFCA also said that municipal affairs cancelled the Exemplary Service Medals Ceremony, an annual presentation in which volunteer and career firefighters are honoured both federally and provincially for their service to their communities.
The association said it will now advocate on behalf of firefighters to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta to have funding reinstated.