Edmonton

Alberta's wildfire season starts at this Edmonton warehouse

The Provincial Wildfire Warehouse and Service Centre in Edmonton is filled with all the tools needed to fight wildfire — and that's where Chad Morrison hopes it all stays.

'We need to keep our pumps and fire hoses ready to go and fight fire at a moment's notice'

Senior wildfire prevention manager Chad Morrison gives us a behind the scenes tour of the Provincial Wildfire Warehouse and Service Centre in Edmonton. 2:23

The Provincial Wildfire Warehouse and Service Centre in Edmonton is filled with all the tools needed to fight wildfire — that's where Chad Morrison hopes it all stays.

"Last year, all of the shelves would have been bare with all of the equipment shipped to Fort McMurray or a bunch of the fires around the province," the senior wildfire prevention manager said. 

"It's the beginning of the season and we're very fortunate this year. It's a much cooler, wetter spring than we had last year," he added, pointing to the gear piled high in rows of steel shelves at the 69,000-square-foot warehouse.

The warehouse, at 120th Avenue and 107th Street, opened in 1969 and remains the central hub for shipping to 11 other regional centres across the province.

Provincial logistics program coordinator Trina Grosse shows us some of the top gear used by Alberta crews in fighting wildfires. 2:04

The facility is also home to a training centre, a sewing room to mend gear, as well as service and mechanic shops — everything needed to keep pumps and fire hoses ready to go and fight fire at a moment's notice, Morrison said.

Three transport trailers that serve as Alberta Wildfire's mobile repair facilities are parked outside the warehouse.

The first in a series of fire control messages with Bertie Beaver in 1958. (Alberta Forest History Photographic Collection)

Last fire season, three mechanics, including David Middlebrough, spent six months parked in Fort McMurray.

"We repaired a little over 400 units in that time period, everything from pumps to chainsaws, generator sets, you name it. If it had an engine, we dealt with it," the small-engine mechanic said.

Morrison admits many people are surprised to discover the mobile repair trailers — or even the warehouse itself — exists.

They would also be amazed to learn Alberta has it's own wildfire prevention mascot, he said.

"Bertie Beaver was a gift from Walt Disney in 1958 to the forest service for the Disney films they made in the Kananaskis region of Alberta," Morrison said.

Bertie is still the mascot for the provincial service today.

Walt Disney and mascot Bertie Beaver at the 1965 Calgary Stampede. (Alberta Forest History Photographic Collection)

To see more from the Provincial Wildfire Warehouse and Service Centre tune into Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV. 

About the Author

Adrienne Lamb

Adrienne Lamb is an award-winning journalist based in Edmonton. She's the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. Adrienne has spent the last couple of decades telling stories across Canada.