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A plane drops a mix of water and fire retardant foam on the fire in Shelburne County (Photo Credit: communications Nova Scotia).

Feds prepare for potential busy fire season

By Randy Thoms Apr 10, 2024 | 4:52 PM

The federal government is preparing for another busy forest fire season.

The country is coming off its worst season on record last year.

A total of 15 million hectares were burning, seven times the national average.

Nearly 18,000 firefighters were involved in snuffing out the flames, including 5,500 from 12 different countries.

A dry, warm winter that saw limited snowfall in many areas of the country has many concerned about a prolonged fire season once again.

Harjit Sajan, the federal Minister of Emergency Preparedness, says the government’s preparation started months ago.

“I convened my provincial and territorial counterparts and leaders of the national Indigenous organizations to talk about the reasons to prepare and to increase our readiness. And across our government agencies and departments are working to leverage all available support,” says Sajjan.

It includes developing a series of risk assessments and the creation of early notification systems related to air quality.

Measures are also being taken to assist First Nations threatened by forest fires.

Over 90 First Nations communities were evacuated in 2023, nearly doubling the national average.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu says last year the government advanced money to some communities to help with the costs of moving people to safe locations.

She says that will happen again this year.

“Communities reported that it made a world of difference, so this year we are doing it across the country,” says Hajdu.

“Some communities have already started preparing the land, protecting infrastructure and planning if evacuations are needed.”

There is new money coming in the federal budget to assist First Nations with emergency preparedness.

Hadju says $166 million to better help communities face wildfires and other emergencies, including over $57 million to support FireSmart, a program that ensures communities have the resources needed to prepare for and manage wildfires.

There is also almost $21 million for First Nations to hire and train firefighters, purchase equipment like fire trucks, and develop fire strategies.