Firefighter recruitment is becoming more difficult as wildfires in Canada grow in size.

Provincial officials warn that, despite Canada’s worst wildfire season ever, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find firefighters to fill unfilled positions due to a labour shortage and the rigorous nature of their work.

Because of a lack of resources, Canada may not be able to put out fires that are expected to grow bigger and more intense in the future as a result of climate change brought on by fossil fuels. This could increase the risk of further harm to communities and disrupt the country’s oil and gas, mining, and lumber industries.

A Reuters survey of all 13 provinces and territories in Canada, excluding the remote Yukon territory, which did not reply to information requests, found that Canada employs around 5,500 wildland firefighters.

According to Mike Flannigan, a professor and wildfire expert at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, it leaves around 2,500 firemen shy of the required number.

According to Flannigan, the work is demanding, hot, smoky, and has serious long-term health consequences. Recruiting and keeping employees is becoming more difficult.

Ontario widened the window for applications this year, increased recruitment efforts, and began paying for training expenses. According to officials, Alberta had to conduct many rounds of recruitment since applications were low in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. The provinces and territories of Canada rely on their foreign allies and the military in times of dire necessity, and they share crews and equipment as needed.

Multiple regions of the nation burning at once was the worst-case scenario, according to Scott Tingley, manager of forest preservation for Nova Scotia. In smoke-filled, high-stress conditions, frequently in isolated wilderness places, wildfire workers put in 12–14 hour days for up to two weeks at a time.

Due to record-breaking fires this year, Canada sent approximately 550 members of the armed forces and more than 1,700 foreign firefighters, who were paid for by the provinces, to supplement its overworked troops. Provincial authorities are relying more heavily on structural firefighters to assist in protecting properties as wildfires continue to pose a threat to towns.

However, of Canada’s 126,000 structural firemen, 90,000, according to the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, are volunteers who shoulder the burden of defending their own communities while simultaneously holding regular day jobs.

The federal government is investing C$256 million over five years into an equipment fund, as well as working on a pilot project to educate structural firefighters, and is investing C$38 million towards hiring, training, and retaining firefighters. The government is aware that further investment is necessary, according to a representative for the Emergency Preparedness ministry.

Ken McMullen, president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, said that although the people who combat wildland fires do an excellent job, there are simply not enough of them.

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