Ottawa working to prevent further wildfire tragedy after deaths: environment minister

Ottawa working to prevent further wildfire tragedy after deaths: environment minister
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault lresponds to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa on June 14, 2023.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says the federal government is doing everything it can to prevent further tragedy after four recent wildfire-related deaths.

On Thursday, a helicopter involved with firefighting operations crashed in northwestern Alberta, killing a pilot.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter that he was “heartbroken to hear that another Canadian fighting wildfires has lost their life.”

Adam Yeadon, 25, also died last week while fighting a wildfire near Fort Liard, N.W.T. Family members have said he was injured by a tree, but officials have not yet provided details about what happened.

Two days earlier, firefighter Devyn Gale, 19, died after a tree fell on her near Revelstoke, B.C. Her death is now under investigation by police, the BC Coroners Service, WorkSafeBC and the BC Wildfire Service.

“Our thoughts go out to the family, friends and loved ones of the two firefighters who’ve lost their lives,” Guilbeault told reporters on Thursday, before news of the helicopter crash had emerged.

“We mourn their death but celebrate what they were doing, and their dedication to their communities and their countries.”

This wildfire season has been worst in recorded history, with thousands of fires scorching more than 110,000 square kilometres of land across the country so far.

More than 885 wildfires are currently burning, 600 of which Guilbeault said are out of control.

Nearly 400 fires are burning in B.C. alone, with 13,935 square kilometres of land burned since April 1.

As of Thursday morning, Alberta had 117 active wildfires, 17 of which were considered out of control.

In Quebec, more than 15,000 square kilometres have burned in the more-populated southern half of the province since the start of the fire season, while almost 30,000 square kilometres have burned in the northern zone.

Indigenous Peoples have been significantly affected by the wildfires, with 42 per cent of evacuations affecting communities that are more than half Indigenous, despite Indigenous Peoples making up five per cent of the general population in Canada.

As of Monday, 106 wildfires had affected 93 First Nations communities.

“We know that climate change makes wildfire season worse. And we’re working to make sure that we’re keeping people safe this year while getting ready for years to come,” said Guilbeault.

Canadian Armed Forces troops are arriving in B.C. this week to join the battle, bringing helicopters and a Hercules aircraft, while the province has asked for 1,000 more international firefighters to join crews from Mexico, the United States and Australia that are already on the ground.

Guilbeault said Ottawa has spent more than $65 million since 2021 on the National Wildfire Management Program at Parks Canada, which supports wildfire risk reduction and the hiring and training of specialists.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2023.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!