EDMONTON ALBERTA - The Alberta Government has announced to end the province’s Wildland Firefighter Rappel Program after decades of service. RAP, the helicopter rappel program, which allows the fire fighters to rappels from helicopters to fight fires in remote areas that are most easily accessed by air. The Government decided end the 63 manned program was revealed on Nov. 6 by minister of agriculture and forestry Devin Dreeshen in a statement. Mr Dreeshen said budget was the reason for cutting the program was the major thing. “Using lessons learned from previous years, we are modernizing our wildfire response and making changes to align with best practices in other provinces, Firefighters rappelled into locations in less than two percent of wildfires in Alberta. We are instead prioritizing our Helitack and Firetack crews, which were used far more often.” Mr Dreeshen said. He continued on to say that 90% of fire contracts are done by private parties and will remain that way. Though the Alberta Fire Fighter’s are pushing back against the cuts. Logan Mahoney, a rappel sub leader who has been with the program for six years, said the members of the RAP team were “blindsided” by the decision.
“It’s unclear how a decision like this can be made without any direct representation by anyone from the program,our value goes beyond just rappelling into initial attack fires. We are used on large-scale campaign fires to cut helipads to allow access for all crews to get their boots on the ground. Out of all the programs, rappel has the highest retention rate, which provides for more experience on all fires. In many cases, a rappel leader has over 10 years of experience. This experience is risked to be lost by these cuts.” Mr Mohney said to the press.
The Alberta government plans to work with the current rappel firefighters to place them on Helitack or unit crews next summer, should they choose to return, minister Dreeshen said.
Alberta’s total wildfire management budget for 2019-20 is $117.6 million, and the contingency fund for emergency response – including wildfires – has been increased to $750 million.