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Praise for front line forest fire and support staff helping fight Alberta fires

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the roughly 85 Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) firefighters and support staff who will help battle wildfires in Alberta are doing OPSEU and Ontario proud.

“This is public service at its finest,” said Thomas. “These frontline workers are travelling away from their homes and their families, potentially putting themselves in harm’s way, in order to help others in their time of need.

“I know I’m speaking for OPSEU’s entire Executive Board and all of our 155,000 members when I say: thank you and stay safe.”

The MNRF workers, including fire crew and support staff from across the province, will head to Alberta on Friday, May 24, for at least one 14-day deployment.

There are currently dozens of wildfires burning in Alberta, at least five of them are out of control. In the province’s north west, one of those fires is raging close to communities. 5,000 people have been ordered to leave their homes in the Dene Tha’ First Nation and the nearby town of High Level.

“We were all horrified when wild fires ripped through Fort McMurray three summers ago. Our members want to do whatever we can to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said OPSEU Local 623 President Len Sedore. “Besides, frontline fire crews and support staff came to Ontario last summer when we had twice the number of wildfires than the summer before. 

“That’s what frontline public service workers do: help where help is needed.”

Fire experts say the number and size of wildfires have been increasing dramatically across the country over the past 30 years, likely because of warming temperatures and drier summer conditions caused by climate change.

“We’ve already had extreme flooding across Ontario and now these fires in Alberta are giving us a taste of what we might have to deal with all summer long,” said Thomas. “Climate change is real and it’s taking a real toll.

“But what’s our government doing about it? Printing gas-pump stickers and buying millions of dollars of TV ads trying to convince us that we don’t have to act,” said Thomas. “While politicians like Doug Ford and Jason Kenney just bury their heads in the tar sands, OPSEU members are rushing in to help.”

For more information:
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931