Wildfire suppression budget cuts could endanger province, says air tanker company
Air Spray's contract was reduced from 123 days to 93 days, according to vice president
With wildfires already spreading in Alberta, one air tanker company is raising the alarm on cuts to the province's fire suppression budget.
Paul Lane, the vice president of Air Spray, said the company's contract was cut by 25 per cent in the recent budget.
"The province has reduced the operating contracts, for not just us but the other air tanker operator, from 123 days to 93 days," Lane told CBC News Calgary at 6.
"Effectively that will mean that all the air tanker assets in Alberta will come up contract by August 16. The province has no guarantee of availability after that period of those air tanker assets."
The province reduced the overall wildfire suppression budget by about $15 million.
Premier Rachel Notley said the budget reflects base levels of funding and that emergency funds will kick in if needed for more fire suppression.
"All that happened is a high level of expenditure engaged last year because of the high level of fires was reduced back to the normal amount," she said.
"In no way, shape or form are we suggesting that we wouldn't put every bit of resources that are required to ensure that fires are appropriately fought as they arise."
However, Lane said the reduction in days could impact his company's ability to retain staff throughout the wildfire season.
"With our contracts being cut, if the season lulls for a little while, we could see a situation where we're laying off pilots and they go elsewhere," said Lane.
"They have other jobs to do throughout the rest of the year and they just might not be available to come back."
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With files from CBC News Calgary