Alaska sends firefighters, air tanker to help with Alberta’s ‘unprecedented’ early wildfire season

a fire blazes
A wildfire near Lodgepole, Alberta on May 4, 2023. (Alberta Wildfire/Handout)

The Alaska Division of Forestry and Fire Protection has sent resources to the Canadian province of Alberta, where agency information officer Lily Coyle says they’re dealing with an unusually intense early wildfire season. 

“They declared a state of emergency over this past weekend,” Coyle said. “On Saturday they had over 100 wildfires spreading out of control. Their premier deemed it an unprecedented crisis.”   

Coyle said the state sent a hot shot crew and an air tanker to Alberta.

While Alaska wildfire fighting agencies often send people and equipment to work outside the state in the fall, Coyle said the spring deployment is very unusual.

“This is the first time that we’ve sent a crew to Canada in May,” she said. “Our late fire season, coupled with the early drought conditions that Alberta is facing — that just set us up for this pretty unprecedented situation.”       

Coyle said Alberta firefighters came to Alaska to help during the busy 2022 fire season. 

“And so this is an awesome opportunity for Alaskan firefighters to pay back that service,” she said.

Coyle said Alaska has crews ready to respond to fires in state and is completing trainings that will provide additional people. On the federal side, Alaska Fire Service spokesperson Beth Ipsen said no personnel or equipment have so far been sent to help out in Alberta, but the agency has 2 hot shot crews that will be finishing training this week and available for deployment.       

RELATED: Alaska fire season begins with almost two dozen human-caused blazes

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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