There is a concern Ontario doesn't have enough forest firefighters.
A union leader says the province is 50 crews short.
Mark Belanger, a local president with the Ontario Public Services Employees Union, says the lack of experience staff to lead those crews is part of the problem.
"When I started with the Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Service, we had five-person crews that could have as much as 20 years experience per person and worked equivalent to full time. That's 100 years of combined experience. Now we have four persons, many of them students, with as little as five seasons combined experience, who with that time, may have worked anywhere from zero to six weeks per season on actual fires. We have lost as much as 95 years of experience at the crew level," says Belanger.
Belanger says, in some places, there has been more than 30 per cent loss in frontline leadership.
He says wages are one factor.
"Without a reasonable wage exchange for workplace hazards and challenges faced you cannot retain a skilled workforce. A crew leader makes about $17,000 in a six-month season. None receive any isolation or danger pay or standby pay for when they're out on fire assignments and in the bush. Without at least 100 hours of overtime, they can't even recoup the costs of fighting fires in a slow year," says Belanger.
The opposition NDP looks to the Ford government as not respecting Ontario's forest firefighters.
"When fire workers aren't supported, it's hard to recruit. And that has serious consequences for future summers when we need people with the experience and the knowledge to lead our fire crews and keep us safe. Doug Ford's policy decisions to cut funding for fire crews are going to have dire consequences at a time when fire seasons are only going to get worse," says NDP leader Marit Stiles.
Stiles wants Ford to reverse the cuts made to forest fire crews and provide them with fair compensation.
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa would also like to see increased use of First Nation firefighters.
"I remember a fire, I think it was last year or earlier this year, but this First Nation had 37 firefighters, and they were never utilized. These are our lands, these are our traditional territories, these are our hunting routes. We know best how the fire will act. We know best how to protect these camps, these lands, and we don't even utilize them, says Mamakwa.
The union has set up a website to gather public support and send a message to MPPs, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Premier to take action.