BOW VALLEY, COCHRANE TODAY – The Alberta government is hiring 200 more firefighters, implementing a fire ban and increasing fines in preparation for the upcoming wildfire season.

Wildfires are already burning in neighbouring B.C., but Alberta officials say the new measures announced Tuesday (April 14) will help the province focus resources where they are needed in the event of multiple emergencies happening at the same time.

The government approved $5 million to hire and train 200 firefighters. More than 800 seasonal firefighters will join 370 year-round staff at Alberta Wildfire. Most new seasonal staff will be on-the-ground firefighters, with wages between $22 and $28 per hour.

In addition, a fire ban has been implemented in forest protection areas and provincial parks and protected areas. Fines are being doubled from $300 to $600 for those caught ignoring a fire ban.

“This spring, we may find ourselves facing multiple disasters at once. With all these measures, we will be prepared,” said Devin Dreeshen, Alberta’s agriculture and forestry minister.

“With Alberta’s wildfire season matching with the expected peak of COVID-19, we have to take extra precautions to ensure our response efforts are well-funded and planned out.”

The wildfire ban does not apply to the Banff townsite and Banff National Park.

Town of Banff officials said they have started preparing for not only wildfires but for the flood season as well.

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