POLITICS

Saskatchewan NDP wants province to hire more firefighters, bolster fire controls

07/09/2015 05:53 EDT | Updated 07/09/2016 05:59 EDT
REGINA - The Opposition New Democrats are calling on the Saskatchewan government to hire more people to fight wildfires.

NDP environment critic Cathy Sproule says the province set aside $56 million for wildfire management this year compared with $102 million in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

She says the help being offered by the military and other provinces is incredible, but the government should ensure it has enough trained firefighters of its own.

The province has acknowledged it doesn't have enough staff and has started a hiring blitz in the hope of having up to 400 new firefighters on the line within 10 days to two weeks.

Officials say the new hires will attend a shorter training course than usual.

Sproule says First Nations leaders in northern Saskatchewan have repeatedly pressed the government to hire more crews.

"It’s likely to be a hot, dry summer with continuing high levels of fire activity," she said in a release Thursday.

"We need fire-fighting resources back up to their former levels, at a minimum, both to help with the current emergency efforts to save communities, but also to protect the province through the rest of the fire season when the emergency help is gone."

Saskatchewan fire officials say major fires continue to threaten communities in the north, including La Ronge and Montreal Lake.

On Thursday, about 200 people were allowed to return home to three small aboriginal communities north of Prince Albert.

The First Nations include the Wahpeton Dakota, Sturgeon Lake and Little Red.

Officials say the fire threat remains extreme in the north and it is too soon to estimate when the more then 10,000 people who have been forced from their communities can go home.