Alberta Premier Danielle Smith continues to dodge pressure from legacy media, who appear adamant in their quest to blame 'climate change' for every wildfire this year.
During an interview with CTV, host Omar Sachedina repeatedly asked Smith Tuesday if she saw a connection between the abnormal 2023 wildfire season and environmental calamity.
"All I know is in my province, we have 650 fires, and 500 of them were human-caused," she said, stressing the importance of not contravening fire bans to avoid accidental fires.
According to the Alberta government's Wildfire Status Dashboard, the province has recorded 973 wildfires this year — up in volume from 829 wildfires last year.
Furthermore, the intensity of the wildfires surpassed the previous provincial record as of June 12. Alberta Wildfire estimated 1,400,021 hectares have burned during the 2023 wildfire season, beating the previous record of 1,357,000 hectares burned in 1981.
"Wildfire season happens every single year. It will continue happening every year," said Smith when pressed a third time. "We have to [ensure] that we're managing and mitigating and [educating] the public about their role in causing those fires."
On June 6, the UCP revoked the provincial emergency, downgrading the crisis to a level three emergency.
"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 at the time, with 300 such fires caused by human activity.
"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. How much the Alberta government spent from that budget to counter the wildfires is still being determined.
On June 8, Smith said arson supposedly caused some wildfires, with no known causes for 175 such wildfires.
Alberta RCMP attributed lightning and other 'naturally occurring sources' as the cause for most of Alberta's fires this year.
Smith contends Alberta Wildfire did a 'good job' working with communities this year to accelerate fire guard prevention but admitted more work remains to reduce the risk of wildfires entering residential areas and cities.
In November 2019, the UCP scrapped its $1.4 million Aerial Rapattack fire service team, cutting staff at 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.
As of writing, 84 wildfires are burning in Alberta's forest protection area, with two considered out of control.
The RCMP investigated 21 suspicious wildfires in 2022 and 40 the year before. Alberta Parks spokesperson Pam Davidson said the investigations ensure "our prevention methods are up to date."
"While we do have investigators in Alberta who are qualified, given the high number of active wildfires so early this season, we required additional support," said Parks press secretary Pam Davidson.
The province has already brought in two arson investigators from New Brunswick and two from B.C.
"I think you're watching as I am the number of stories about arson," said Smith. "I'm very concerned that there are arsonists, and there have been stories as well that we're investigating."