Quick – what’s the number for 9-11? It’s an old joke, but it captures an important truth: emergency numbers are most useful when everyone knows them.
Hopefully, most Albertans know 310-FIRE – the number to report wildfires in Alberta – almost as well as the number for their own municipal fire department. A dedicated wildfire hotline isn’t a new thing in Alberta. In the 1970s, we operated a Zenith number (222-33); in the 1980s, that number was replaced with 427-FIRE. But in many parts of the province, that number was long-distance – and we need Albertans to be able to report a wildfire at any time, from anywhere in the province.
- It’s easy to remember.
- It’s available 24/7, 365 days a year.
- It’s toll-free – so it never costs to call.
Albertans have definitely called – almost 5,000 times over the past five years alone. And more than 1,000 of those calls have led to the discovery of a wildfire.
In fact, it’s been so successful that other provinces can’t help but take notice. Ontario adopted the 310-FIRE line in 2010 – and this year, Saskatchewan will become the third province to use it. Folks in all three provinces will now have just one common number to remember. And a routing system will make sure these calls go to the right areas based on the caller’s location, avoiding confusion and keeping the Alberta line free for Alberta calls.
It’s exciting news – and there’s no reason to stop here. If more provinces adopt the line, we could eventually end up with a national wildfire reporting number. In the meantime, this change will make it a little easier for our neighbors to the east to report wildfires – and that’s definitely something to be proud of.