Clearwater County is home to a team of wildfire experts – Red Deer Advocate

A team of Clearwater County firefighters specially trained to lead the fight against large wildfires has been funded for another three years.

The province announced this week that $1.5 million will be allocated to the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) program overseen by Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services (CRFRS).

In 2019, the Clearwater County Fire Department was one of two selected, along with the City of High Level, to lead WUI teams in an 18-month pilot project funded to the tune of $580,000. by the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association. The project was then extended until this spring and will continue until 2025.

A series of major wildfires in British Columbia and across the province, including major blazes in Fort McMurray and Slave Lake that saw dozens of full-time, paid-on-call volunteer firefighters from central Alberta to lend a hand, prompted the creation of the program to develop teams of experts to lead the fights to extinguish the flames and reduce property damage.

The money will be used to develop training programs, the actual training and to cover the cost of deploying the WUI four-man firefighting team to a wildfire emergency.

Clearwater Deputy Fire Chief Evan Stewart said WUI crews are part of a larger effort by provincial organizations, municipalities and their fire departments and other agencies to coordinate a response to major fires. .

When faced with an emergency, WUI teams will be on the ground to lead the response while the Provincial Operations Center marshals the necessary resources.

“It’s not just us and High Level who have managed to build this change. It has been a huge team effort, he said, adding that private sector stakeholders are also involved.

“We were just lucky to have one of two teams for this part of the initial response, developing the training programs and delivering the training to municipal firefighters and contract firefighters across the province,” said Stewart said.

“This is a great opportunity for the province to have some consistency in the delivery of training.

This work includes developing fire plans for individual rural subdivisions so that in the event of a forest fire, everyone knows exactly what to do and where to go.

In 2020, nearly 300 municipal firefighters were trained by WUI. The pandemic reduced training opportunities last year, but teams completely revamped the Urban Wildfire Interface Crewman course, which will now be used for training.

Team members were also on the ground to help fight the battle against the Tomahawk Fire in Parkland County, which began burning in May and was still smoldering deep in peat moss two months later.

They also traveled to British Columbia for two months during the summer to help that province battle multiple fires throughout the interior. In all, Clearwater sent 10 firefighters, including members of the WUI team.

Clearwater has approximately 90 firefighters operating out of fire stations in Nordegg, Rocky Mountain House, Leslieville, Condor and Caroline.

Alberta Municipal Affairs is providing $1.5 million in funding under Alberta’s Strategic Community Partnership Initiatives in partnership with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

In addition to job opportunities, the program allows the county to take advantage of high-quality training opportunities, said Christine Heggart, director of emergency and legislative services.

“In terms of local benefits, the Wildland Urban Interface Program for Clearwater County means increased capacity. We have a full-time team of four here, 40 hours a week.

When not deployed elsewhere or involved in their province-wide efforts, team members are available to fight local fires and oversee fire prevention and training initiatives.

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