WHEREAS Alberta Forestry and Parks is the principal agency responsible for wildfire management in the Forest Protection Area (FPA); and
WHEREAS municipalities located outside the FPA are responsible for the management of wildfires as per Section 7(1) of the Forest and Prairie Protection Act, including all financial costs of suppression; and
WHEREAS wildfire seasons are growing increasingly longer and more intense, placing a significant strain on provincial and municipal wildfire resources; and
WHEREAS Alberta Forestry and Parks allocates priority to wildfire suppression efforts within the FPA, which can reduce or eliminate the allocation of wildfire suppression resources to regions outside the FPA during active fire seasons; and
WHEREAS wildfire suppression is a resource-intensive activity that requires specialized resources to effectively manage and suppress wildfires;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) engage with the Government of Alberta (GOA), Alberta Municipalities (ABmunis), and the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA) to develop a long-term strategy for the resourcing and management of wildland fire events outside the Forest Protection Area (FPA); and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the RMA collaborate with ABmunis, the AFCA, and the GOA to establish a working group consisting of municipal and provincial subject matter experts, elected officials, and senior municipal administrators to develop a long-term strategy for wildfire management outside the FPA; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT the RMA advocate that the GOA allocate additional funding to train more rotary wing pilots in bucketing and strategically place these bucketing resources inside and outside the FPA.
Alberta’s wildland fire season is starting earlier, lasting longer, and affecting larger areas of Alberta than we have seen in the past. This increase in wildfire activity has been putting significant strain on Alberta’s fire resources, both within and outside Alberta’s Forest Protection Area (FPA).
Many municipalities located outside the FPA have seen an increase in wildfire activity, with several non-FPA municipalities experiencing multiple large wildfire events in recent years. While the Ministry of Forestry and Parks is the lead agency responsible for management and suppression of wildfires within the (FPA), Section 7(1) of the Forest and Prairie Protection Act assigns responsibility for the management and suppression of wildfires outside the FPA to the municipality. Many municipalities outside Alberta’s FPA operate with resource and budgetary limitations that impact their ability to sustain long-term action on wildfire events. Managing large wildfire events using paid-on-call or volunteer firefighters is not sustainable and will further contribute to the ongoing recruitment and retention challenges in Alberta’s rural fire service.
While Alberta Wildfire will provide mutual aid assistance to non-FPA municipalities, this is based on resource availability as well as current and forecasted fire conditions within the FPA. During periods of high fire activity or danger within the FPA, the availability of critical, specially trained wildfire suppression crew resources can be a challenge. During Alberta’s 2023 Wildfire Season, provincial resources were not available to provide the support needed by municipalities; this includes technical specialists such as fire behaviour analysts as well as access to specialized wildland firefighting unit crews, heavy equipment groups, and incident management and field supervision (division supervisors, task force/strike team leaders) with adequate wildland fire line leadership experience to support safe tactical operations.
In 2022, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta passed resolution 6-22F in relation to the financial burden of providing emergency response services on crown lands. While not directly related, it does connect to the financial impacts of providing emergency response services (including fire suppression) on provincial lands.
In 2023, the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association passed resolution 2023-04 to work collaboratively with appropriate government ministries, Alberta Municipalities, and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta to develop a long-term strategy for the management of large wildland fires outside the FPA.
This issue is not one isolated to one singular area of the province, and includes other key stakeholders such as:
The issue of wildland fire management is a global issue, with extensive research and committee work occurring at the national and international levels to address the problem. There are many relevant sources of supporting information, including:
Canada’s overburdened firefighters aren’t getting enough support:
The Report of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission:
Resilience Strategies for Wildfire:
Roadmap for Wildfire Resilience: How to Get There from Here:
Provincially, there is a definite and time sensitive need to take immediate action. Possible strategies that may be considered include, but are not limited to:
As wildfire seasons across Alberta grow in length and intensity, they are placing a substantial drain on municipal resources and budgets. Action is necessary to ensure Alberta’s municipalities are well positioned to protect Albertans from the increasing threat of wildfire.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.