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Upcoming wildfire season could be worse than last year, federal minister says

Provincial, territorial and federal emergency response ministers have wrapped up two days of meetings in Ottawa.

That included talks on the upcoming wildfire season, which is already getting an early start in Alberta.

Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan said this year’s wildfires could be even worse than last year.

“This morning, we were provided with an alarming but not surprising update on the upcoming wildfire season. We were warned that we need to be prepared for the worst,” Sajjan said Wednesday.

“Early reporting suggests that this year’s wildfire season could be worse than the last.”

He said the two-day discussions between the ministers didn’t necessarily result in a new strategy but focused co-ordinating to be more responsive.

Sajjan said that includes ensuring all the provinces and territories know all the tools they have available so they can respond quickly.

He said the politicians were also learning from lessons last year, Canada’s worst wildfire season on record.

That includes early detection of reactivated fires to take action before they can harm a town and measures as simple as ensuring flammable patio furniture is moved out of the way.

Sajjan noted the ministers also met with Indigenous leaders.

“We need to get better and better, and I think we have, (at) using their local knowledge.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2024.