UPDATE: Alberta RCMP investigating 15 arson files on 49 fires

Alberta Forestry and Parks told Rebel News Tuesday that 524 wildfires have been determined to be caused by human activity. 'It is important to note that human-caused wildfires are not limited to arson,' says Alberta Forestry and Parks.

UPDATE: Alberta RCMP investigating 15 arson files on 49 fires
Facebook/ Danielle Smith and Todd Loewen
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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 August 15 interview with CTV, host Omar Sachedina repeatedly asked Smith 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.

Alberta Forestry and Parks told Rebel News on Tuesday that 524 wildfires have been determined to be caused by human activity. 

"It is important to note that human-caused wildfires are not limited to arson," said Alberta Forestry and Parks spokesperson Pam Davidson. 

"This category includes fires caused by abandoned campfires, residential burning, industrial or agricultural activity and fires caused by off-highway vehicles."

According to the Alberta government's Wildfire Status Dashboard, the province has recorded 982 wildfires this year — up in volume from 829 wildfires last year.

"Alberta's 2023 wildfire season has been unprecedented," she added. "More than 1.8 million hectares have been burned — the largest area on record in our province's history. 

Alberta's previous record for hectares burned occurred in 1981, with 1,357,000 hectares of land decimated by fires.

"Wildfire season happens every single year. It will continue happening every year," continued Smith when pressed a third time by Sachedina. 

"We have to [ensure] that we're managing and mitigating and [educating] the public about their role in causing those fires." 

On June 8, Smith said arson supposedly caused some wildfires, with no known causes for 175 fires. 

According to the province, several fires between Anzac and Lac La Biche, Alberta, are under investigation for suspected arson.

Between April 22 and May 22, Alberta RCMP initially attributed several deliberately set fires to arson along Hwy 881 between Anzac and Lac La Biche.

"Thankfully, all fires were quickly contained without [losing] structures in the area. The investigation has determined that these fires were set deliberately," they said in a written statement.

Last year, Alberta RCMP investigated 21 suspicious wildfires and 40 the year before. Davidson told True North the investigations ensure "our prevention methods are up to date."

Alberta RCMP attributed lightning and other 'naturally occurring sources' as the cause for most of the fires this year. 

"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."

"There are currently 88 wildfires classified as being under investigation. It is important to note that this does not mean the wildfires are suspicious, only that their cause has not yet been determined," added Davidson.

Alberta Parks and Forestry told Rebel the province investigates the cause of every wildfire, whether they are suspicious or not.

"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 Davidson. 

The province has already hired two arson investigators from New Brunswick and two from B.C. to conduct wildfire investigations.

"Specific to arson investigations, fires determined by Alberta Wildfire to be deliberately set are referred to the RCMP's Forestry Crimes Unit," said Alberta Parks and Forestry. "There are currently 15 arson files under investigation by the RCMP related to 49 fires in total."

While Smith contends Alberta Wildfire did a 'good job' working with communities this year to accelerate fire guard prevention, she 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 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.

The UCP allocated $1.5 billion in contingency for emergency management to spend on supporting affected residents. 

How much the Alberta government spent will be unveiled by the Alberta Treasury Board as part of the province's first quarter fiscal update and economic statement later this month.

Davidson told Rebel that after this wildfire season, the department will undergo a full review to determine what lessons can be learned for future fire management. "Findings and recommendations will be reviewed and acted on to bolster preparedness in the future."

As of writing, the province is working to suppress 80 active wildfires, with the wildfire season slated to end on October 31.

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  • By Ezra Levant

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