$45M for forest fires prevention, Alberta government announces

Alberta Forestry is tripling the to help communities prevent wildfires this year.

Province will dedicate $15 million a year for the next three years towards FireSmart

Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier announced the province will dedicate $15 million a year for the next three years towards the FireSmart program. (David Thurton/CBC)

Alberta is dedicating $15 million a year for the next three years to allow more communities to access the FireSmart program.

"Our government is committed to ensuring the necessary resources are in place to protect Albertans and their communities," Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier said at a news conference in Fort McMurray Thursday.

FireSmart is a program which helps reduce the impact of forest fires through a range of activities such as clearing dead trees and educating the public. In 2016, Carlier said the province spent $3.8 million on FireSmart.

Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region would receive over $10.5 million for work in the municipality. Other communities around Alberta can apply for funding.

Last May, a wildfire encircled Fort McMurray and destroyed more than 2,400 homes and structures.

The forest fire is considered one of Alberta's worst, consuming around 741,550 hectares of forest, an area larger than P.E.I.

This year the province moved the start of forest fire season ahead to March and hike fines for activities that could start a wildfire. 

Carlier also said Thursday he has seen Alberta forestry's draft report on how the department can improve its wildfire response.

He declined to say what was in the report, which be released in spring or summer.

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitter and via email.