The rappel team was part of Alberta’s wildfire response strategy for decades. Created in 1983, the unit of specialized firefighters would rappel from helicopters to access remote wildfires.
But, the team was disbanded in 2019 leaving 63 wildland firefighters with expertise sidelined.
Residents say provincial cuts and sparse resources have left them with no other choice than to grab a hose and join the firefighting efforts, CBC reported.
Some Albertans are defying evacuation orders and trying to fight the flames on their own to protect their homes and livestock.
There are 87 active wildfires with 24 being classified as out of control. That does not include the eight wildfires burning outside those zones.
“The fire danger is extreme again today. As expected, we saw an increase in fire activity yesterday due to the hot and dry conditions. The interior of wildfires can flare up as previously unburned vegetation catches fire,” Josee St-Onge, wildfire information officer with the province, said at a briefing on Sunday.
She said the worst may be yet to come.
“While some wildfires grew yesterday, overall our firefighters were able to hold their ground but they will be challenged again today. Our peak burning period, which is when the temperatures are at their highest and the fuels are at their driest is still in front of us. We are using all of the resources at our disposal to fight these wildfires and keep people in communities safe.”