Members from B Company, 1 Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry board a CH-147F Chinook helicopter to receive loading instruction from the crew during Operation LENTUS 21-03 in the British Columbia Interior on July 25, 2021.
Photo: Corporal Jay Naples, MARPAC Imaging Services, Canadian Armed Forces photo
On July 5, 2021, in response to a Request for Federal Assistance (RFA) from British Columbia (B.C.), Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) assets deployed to the province as part of the overall CAF response to wildfires across the country.
In anticipation of the request, multiple Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) assets forward located to Edmonton, Alta. to expedite the move to B.C. An airfield activation surge team from 2 Wing Bagotville rapidly deployed to Kamloops, B.C. to establish the airfield and initiate mission support services ahead of the Air Task Force’s (ATF) arrival.
A CH-146 Griffon helicopter from 417 Combat Support Squadron, Cold Lake, Alta specializing in contingency medical evacuation was skids-down on the taxiway on July 8th, and within minutes was followed by the first CH-147F Chinook helicopter from 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Petawawa, Ont.
Later that day, a 436 Transport Squadron CC-130J Hercules aircraft from 8 Wing, Trenton, Ont. arrived with supplies necessary to set up the airfield, and has since accomplished many transports of military and BC Wildfire Service equipment.
A second CH-147F Chinook helicopter from 450 Squadron joined the ATF on the 11th of July to share the workload of providing air mobility to fire support crews, conducting reconnaissance to determine the scope and scale of fires, and transporting mobile firefighting equipment.
An additional CH-146 Griffon helicopter from 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Edmonton arrived on July 8th supporting the BC Wildfire Service with utility moves.
The abnormally harsh conditions of the 2021 wildfire season have led to approximately 448,952 hectares burned at this time – more than four times the ten-year average for this time of year.
With 3,375 properties on evacuation order, and 18,065 properties on evacuation alert as of the 27th of July, the ATF has since launched into community evacuation by air where resources are limited or restricted due to wildfire activity.
On the 15th of July approximately 6000-hectares of combined blazes encroaching on the Anahim Lake Area forced residents out of their homes, and in response, a CH-147F Chinook transported a community evacuation to Puntzi Mountain, B.C. with support from the 417 Squadron Griffon
The operation has thus far yielded much needed assistance to the province which declared a state of emergency just 19 days after concluding the 16-month state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic.
A task force consisting of up to 350 land troops is currently deploying to Vernon, B.C. where it will aid the BC Wildfire Service in suppression of hotspots, monitoring of fire lines, and working alongside BC Wildfire Service personnel in a support capacity.
Federal assistance to B.C. in its fight against wildfires will be periodically reassessed throughout the wildfire season to evaluate the needs of the province and whether an extension is required beyond the requested period of support.