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Mushroom pickers ‘asked to carry fire extinguishers’

Updated 4/1/15: Yes, this was an April fools’ gag. The territorial government will ask morel mushroom harvesters to carry fire extinguishers this summer.

A second successive major wildfire season is forecast unless conditions in the Northwest Territories dramatically improve – which coincides with what is billed as the biggest morel mushroom harvest in territorial history.

Thousands of NWT residents are expected to take part in mushroom picking once the season begins in mid-May, across vast areas of wilderness.

Read more: Morel mushroom warning – prices could drop 50 per cent

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Now, the GNWT hopes those ideally located mushroom harvesters can help in the fight against forest fires.

“We are asking anyone picking mushrooms this year to carry a portable fire extinguisher,” said government spokeswoman Lori Falop, announcing a $500,000 investment in the program.

The project is supported by energy giant Chevron, whose logo will appear on extinguishers.

When the territory’s 2015-16 budget was revealed in early February, finance minister Michael Miltenberger defended the lack of increased funding to fight wildfires after a devastating summer of 2014.

According to Falop, the territory believes strategically deploying mushroom harvesters this summer – for free – will be worth the equivalent of $10 million in additional resources.

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Read: Important information about this story

“Every little helps. Mushroom pickers provide a level of manpower and a wilderness presence we simply can’t match,” said Falop.

“While we recognize that one fire extinguisher would be ineffective against forest fires – some might say, dangerous and counterproductive – we believe that several thousand of them, used in unison, can have an effect.

“With basic training and the correct extinguishing agent, we believe harvesters can help to defeat forest fires and earn money with mushrooms at the same time.”

The government was unable to identify precisely which class of portable fire extinguisher – A, B or C – was best equipped to tackle fires capable of burning an area of 5,000 square kilometres.

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