In the next three years, Budget 2024 will allocate an extra $151 million towards wildfire preparedness, prevention, response, and mitigation. The announcement was made today in Grande Prairie.

As Alberta enters the wildfire season, numerous regions in the province face increased wildfire risk. The government of Alberta is prioritizing innovative technologies and strategies to bolster front-line response and wildfire suppression efforts.

“Alberta’s government is well prepared for the 2024 wildfire season," stated Todd Loewen, Minister of Forestry and Parks. "We have emerging technologies that will enable us to better protect forests and communities while continuing to prioritize proactive measures that build wildfire resilience throughout the province."

This supplementary funding aims to boost wildland firefighting capabilities, including augmenting resources like personnel, aircraft, drones, artificial intelligence (AI), and night-vision technology.

AirdrieDrone and helicopter testing is being performed by Alberta Wildfire personnel. Photo Credit: Alberta Wildfire

Aerial operations play a crucial role in firefighting endeavours, and the augmented funding will facilitate the province in securing two extra long-term helicopter contracts, two new air tanker contracts, and additional drones for aerial wildfire surveillance. Additionally, Budget 2024 will provide support for the renewal of 130 helicopter contracts by April 1.

“We live in a time where we have access to incredible technologies and last year, we recognized some great successes from various firefighting technology pilot programs. I can say with confidence that the additional night-vision equipped helicopters and drones will make a big difference in our wildfire mitigation and response efforts this year,” mentioned Bernie Schmitte, Executive Director of Alberta Wildfire.

According to the government, Night-vision goggles amplify light 60,000 times and allow helicopter pilots to work overnight and conduct activities like bucketing operations.

Since 2022, Alberta has effectively utilized an AI wildfire occurrence prediction system to identify areas prone to wildfires.

As part of Budget 2024, the addition of 100 new firefighters is planned, leading to the establishment of five additional 20-person crews.

Alberta Wildfire remains committed to investigating, researching, and testing novel advancements in wildfire prevention, mitigation, smoke detection, and suppression. This ongoing effort aims to evaluate how innovative technologies can bolster swift responses and aid in extinguishing wildfires. Recognizing the ever-evolving nature of wildfire management best practices, the Alberta government is actively striving to stay ahead of the curve.

Wildfire season officially started back on February 20, which is 10 days earlier than usual. In 2023, a total of 1,094 wildfires burned 2,214,957 hectares.

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