Alberta puts stop to firefighters rappelling from helicopters

Alberta puts stop to firefighters rappelling from helicopters 11 Nov, 19, Source: Govt of Alberta

Minister Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in Province of Alberta (Canada) made a statement about wildfires late last week, and surprised the firefighting community by cutting the teams that rappel into fire zones from helicopters.  Here is the full statement

“The protection of lives and communities will always be our top priority when responding to wildfires. Alberta’s total wildfire management budget for 2019-20 is $117.6 million.

Our government has increased the contingency fund for emergency response – including wildfires – to $750 million.

Using lessons learned from previous years, we are modernizing our wildfire response and making changes to align with best practices in other provinces.

For example, Alberta is the only province that still depends so heavily on lookout towers. While we will continue to use towers in strategic locations, we are also modernizing and using technology, such as cameras and aerial patrols to allow monitoring more efficiently (ex. one person can monitor multiple zones remotely using modern technology).

In years past, 90 percent of wildfire fighting has been provided by private contractors. The bulk of firefighters used were not Government of Alberta employees. This practice will continue.

To help ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars, we are carrying out an independent review of the 2019 spring wildfire activity and conditions, the Department’s wildfire preparedness and response to those wildfires, and the Department’s wildfire management program. Our review will engage with stakeholders from communities affected by the wildfire and prepare a report for release in 2020.

Firefighters rappelled into locations in less than two per cent of wildfires in Alberta. We are instead prioritizing our Helitack and Firetack crews, which were used far more often.

We will work with firefighters to ensure that those wanting to work for us again next summer are placed on Helitack or Unit crews.

Going forward we will rely on support from our partner agencies across Canada as we did this year.”

HeliHub Editor note – see also Alberta firefighters call for reversal of cut to helicopter rappel program

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