Over the last 24 hours, over 600 people have contacted the government because they want to join Saskatchewan's forest firefighting crews, and the NDP wants all qualified applicants hired.
First Nations leaders in northern Saskatchewan pushed the government repeatedly to hire more firefighters. Finally, the government agreed, but committed to only about 250. Just $56 million was set aside for wildfire management this year, including for firefighters, compared to more than $102 million in 2009-10 – and the NDP wants the provincial government to staff-up again.
“The help from the Canadian Forces, from municipal firefighters and from across the country, is incredible, and we’re so grateful. But we need to do more to expand our capacity,” said Cathy Sproule, the NDP’s environment critic. “It’s likely to be a hot, dry summer with continuing high levels of fire activity. We need firefighting resources back up to their former levels, at a minimum, both to help with the current emergency efforts to save communities, but also to protect the province through the rest of the fire season when the emergency help is gone.”
The NDP takes very seriously the concerns with the government’s current wildfire management policies, resources and response, but is focused on the safety of people and communities, and the needs of evacuees. While increasing resources and hiring and training more firefighters is an immediate need, the NDP will focus on larger policy concerns at a later date.
NDP Leader Cam Broten has visited the northern fire zone twice and continues to visit evacuee centres. Local MLAs Doyle Vermette and Buckley Belanger remain in their home communities of La Ronge and Ile a la Crosse, respectively, and are working with community members and local leaders to manage logistics.