Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is renewing calls for the federal government to build up its capacity to help out with forest fires.
Wall spoke on the issue during a visit to Saskatoon on Monday, following the announcement that Saskatchewan would be sending three airplanes and 30 personnel to help efforts to fight wildfires that have prompted a state of emergency in British Columbia.
He said he’s been assured the wildfire situation in Saskatchewan is stable and that the resources sent to B.C. won’t compromise firefighting efforts here.
“Should they be needed – we hope there’s no emergency where they would be – but should they be needed, they can be back to the province in a timely way,” he said.
Wall said heavy wildfire seasons in recent years have highlighted the need for governments to work together, as he pointed to Saskatchewan’s 2015 brush with massive blazes and large-scale evacuations in the area around La Ronge.
“A couple years ago, we got help from a lot of places. I think Saskatchewan people are the kind of people that remember that sort of thing,” he said.
Wall said he was concerned there could come a day when multiple provinces face massive wildfires, leaving them unable to send each other resources.
With that in mind, he suggested that while Ottawa would never replace provinces when it comes to managing wildfires, the federal government would be wise to prepare to act as a backstop in the event the provinces can’t help each other out.
Wall said one possibility would be improving the abilities of the Canadian Forces to provide assistance with wildfires.
He noted that soldiers did a great job when they got the call to help Saskatchewan in 2015, but that there was a time-lag getting them trained before they could get into the field.
“Maybe there can be some training component for our Armed Forces. Some basic firefighting training component, so that we don’t have to waste any time,” he said.
While Wall said governments can manage resources and assign personnel, he reserved praise for the people on the ground doing the work.
“Credit the people on the front lines fighting the fire already. Credit our folks that are going over there. They deserve all the credit for the efforts to fight these fires in British Columbia,” he said.