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Feds announce wildfire prevention, relief funding

By Jacob Moore May 9, 2024 | 6:36 PM

The Canadian government is funding more emergency preparedness and response efforts across the country.

The government announced a new pilot program for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and $1.2 million for the Canadian Interagency Forest Centre for wildfire prevention, according to a news release.

“Last year, Canadians experienced the most destructive forest fire season in our nation’s history, and we know that climate change has been a root cause of their increased frequency and intensity,” writes Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan in a news release.

Environment Canada predicts that this spring and summer will be warmer than the last, which means there’s more risk of wildfire this season.

The wildfire season of 2023 was like no other our history.

Roughly 18.5 million hectares of forests burned breaking records dating back to 1989.

So far this year, about 87 wildfires are burning in Canada, mostly in western provinces and territories. Six of those fires are out of control, says Sajjan.

For context, emergencies, like wildfires, are handled at the local level first by municipalities, fire and emergency crews, police, etc. If they need local assistance, then it’s the province or the territory’s responsibility to help. The federal government could step in if the province or territory doesn’t have the resources necessary to deal with the emergency.

Pilot program

The NGO pilot program would fund groups like the Canadian Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada. The goal is to help those organizations respond to emergencies even faster and provide relief supplies to people who need them.

The program will focus first on British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, the release says.

Funding for the Canadian Interagency Forest Centre will also go to FireSmart, which aims to reduce the risk of wildfire across the country.

Air quality

Health Canada is working on health resources, like rating air quality on a scale from one to 10 and providing medical supplies to communities.

Indigenous communities

Part of the 2024 budget allocates $57.2 million, spent over five years, to expand the FireSmart program for First Nation communities, especially ones in high-risk areas, according to a news release.

In Alberta, 48 First Nations communities will receive funding for a pilot project to hire Emergency Management Coordinators.