Alberta's water bomber open tenders for fighting forest fires were cancelled April 29 of this year.
Now, that might have been a reasonable and fiscally responsible thing to do if Alberta had an usually wet spring, heavy snow pack, and colder weather, but we didn't. This is an El Nino year and that means Alberta's weather has been predictably warmer and dryer earlier than normal.
Back in February, Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Oneil Carlier recognized the wildfire risk created by the unseasonably warm weather. Here’s what he told the Globe and Mail:
“While it is difficult to predict what weather conditions will be like in the weeks and months ahead, we know right now that there has been below-average snow and rainfall across much of Alberta over the past few months.”
The province started the official wildfire season March 1st, a full month earlier than normal. Carlier said starting the fire season early “really gives us a leg-up on what we anticipate might be again a very busy fire season.”
Good plan. That is, if he had stuck to it. He didn't.
In the middle of April, a wildfire forced the closure of Highway 63, the only route in and out of Fort Mac, 200 km south of town. At the same time, wildfires across the province triggered evacuations on Paul First Nation, Maskwacis, and in Duffield. Mayor Rod Shaigec, even declared a state of emergency in Parkland County, west of Edmonton.
Lesser Slave Lake regional fire chief, Jamie Coutts said at the time, “I’ve been fighting fires here in Slave Lake for 25 years and I’ve never seen them this dry at this time of the year….We’re getting middle-of-May conditions in the middle of April. That’s a little nerve-racking.”
Approximately ten days later, without any real change in the conditions in Alberta, the tenders for water bomber contracts were cancelled.
If the Notley Government was trying to prove how fiscally responsible it is, this wasn't the way to do it.