After operating under a provincial state of emergency to contend with a dire wildfire situation, the UCP dropped the designation despite lingering fires blazing across Alberta.
"This does not mean that the work to fight these fires and protect communities is over," Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mile Ellis told reporters Saturday.
According to the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, the Emergency Coordination Centre — which coordinates the logistics of evacuations — downgraded the crisis to a level three emergency.
Ellis noted tangible improvements to the wildfire situation but said it remains serious. As a result, support for impacted communities would remain status quo.
"We have the resources in place to protect the health, safety, and well-being of Albertans without the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Management Act," he said.
The UCP had $1.5 billion in contingency for emergency management to spend on supporting affected residents.
Since the start of May, more than 38,000 Albertans fled their homes under duress from local evacuation orders, according to Ellis. Of that, 4,200 evacuees remain under evacuation due to out-of-control wildfires.
The CBC reported that the Rocky River fire near Fort Chipewyan remains the top priority for first responders.
Firefighters and helicopters continue to contain the wildfire, with support from air tankers, said Christie Tucker, information unit manager with Alberta Wildfire.
According to provincial data, 2,600 firefighters have responded to over 560 wildfires that have burned 1,180,000 hectares of land.
"The most area burned for an entire wildfire season was 1.3 million hectares in 1981," said Tucker when comparing the abnormal intensity of this year's fire season.
Approximately 300 fires were caused by people.
"We do not anticipate a need for another provincial state of emergency, but the government will consider it...if the situation does require it," said Ellis. Fifty-eight wildfires are burning in Alberta's forest protection area, with 15 considered out of control.
Of the fires still classified as out of control, the Long Lake blaze near Rainbow Lake and Chateh has consumed over 137,000 hectares and forced residents to evacuate to High Level since May 6.
On June 2, the province revoked the month-long evacuation order for 700 Rainbow Lake residents.
An evacuation order remains in effect for the hamlet of Fort Chipewyan, Mikisew First Nation, Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
In November 2019, the UCP scrapped its $1.4 million Aerial Rapattack fire service team, cutting staff from 15 to 30 of the province's 127 wildfire lookout towers. They also decommissioned 26 fire towers, including those in Edson, Fox Creek, and Lac La Biche — areas dealing with out-of-control fires this year.
According to government estimates, Alberta's "wildfire management" budget for 2018/19 was $130 million. The following fiscal year, the province cut Alberta's wildfire management budget to $117.6 million.
Press Progress reported that Budget 2022/23 estimates more "wildfire management" rollbacks to $100.5 million. It is projected to fall again to $100.4 million in 2023/24.
The Alberta NDP also cut $15 million from the wildfire management portfolio in Budget 2016/17, tabled April 14 that year — mere weeks before a devastating wildfire decimated several Fort McMurray neighbourhoods, including 1,800 family homes.
Alberta came out of "the busiest fire season in 25 years" when the governing NDP cut provincial tanker contracts by $5.1 million and base funding for wildfire management by $9.6 million.