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Every year, an average of 1,400 wildfires occur in Alberta’s forests. The financial impact can be considerable. Aside from the money the province spends on wildfire management ($294 million in fiscal 2017–2018), wildfires can cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, displacing people from their homes and disrupting businesses. The 2011 Flat Top Complex wildfire destroyed 510 homes in Slave Lake and caused $700 million in damage. The 2016 Horse River wildfire forced the evacuation of 88,000 residents from the Fort McMurray region and destroyed an estimated 2,400 structures. To date the Horse River wildfire is the most expensive disaster in Canada’s history, with insured losses of $3.6 billion.

Objective and Scope

Our audit objective was to:

  • determine if the prevention and review and improvement components of the
    department’s wildfire management program are well designed and working effectively.
  • determine if the department has processes to evaluate, implement and report on
    recommendations and opportunities for improvement from these public reviews:
    • 2011 Flat Top Complex Wildfire Review (Flat Top Complex Wildfire Review Committee): 21 recommendations
    • Wildfire Management Program and the 2015 Fire Season Review: four recommendations; 18 opportunities for improvement
    • 2016 Horse River Wildfire Review: 10 recommendations; 11 opportunities for improvement


As of June 2018 the department had effective systems and processes for the planning and delivery of its wildfire prevention and review and improvement activities. However, the department needs to improve its systems and processes in the following areas:

  • publicly report on its FireSmart programs, including how this work helps reduce wildfire hazard and risk
  • measure, monitor and report on the results and effectiveness of the activities set out in its forest areas’ wildfire prevention plans
  • comply with its business rules for internal results reporting for the review and improvement program
  • show implementation timelines or completion target dates in its implementation plans for recommendations and opportunities for improvement from external public reviews against which it can measure and report progress