Firefighters ask the feds for more help

After persevering through the most destructive year ever for wildfires in Canada, firefighters are in Ottawa trying to get more assistance before the next wildfire season.  

Driving the news: Over 40 fire chiefs from across the country are meeting with federal officials today to drum up support. One of their main asks is to increase the volunteer firefighter tax credit from $3,000 a year to $10,000 in order to attract more volunteers. 

  • Volunteer firefighters account for 71% of firefighters in Canada, but 9,500 quit in 2023 as the sheer number of fires caused burnout and jeopardized their (paying) day jobs.

  • Other firefighters are set to leave the workforce because of retirement. This year, over 38,000 firefighters were over 50, up from just 30,000 two years prior. 

What else: The fire chiefs also want more cash to upgrade outdated equipment, a restoration and revamp of federal emergency preparedness funding, and a national fire administration to handle the coordination of firefighting efforts—just like in the U.S.

Yes, but This all costs money, and the budget-cutting feds already announced $65 million in funding to six provinces and territories to buy new specialized equipment earlier this year. 

  • As is, annual national wildfire protection costs have surpassed $1 billion in six of the last ten years, going up an average of $150 million per decade since the 1970s.

Bottom line: Wildfires destroyed a record 18.5 million hectares so far this year. A stronger, better-equipped, more coordinated firefighting force could help prevent that record from being broken.—QH