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Operation Lentus 2016 launched as Fort McMurray wildfires rage

Four Royal Canadian Air Force CH-146 Griffon search and rescue helicopters from the Canadian Forces bases in Edmonton and Cold Lake and a handful of military personnel were dispatched to Fort McMurray on Wednesday afternoon as part of the armed forces’ efforts to help Fort McMurray residents devastated by wildfires that have been raging for several days now.

As of yesterday, a C-130 Hercules and other aircraft from the 415 Combat Support Squadron, were placed on standby as well in Cold Lake as part of Operation Lentus 2016.

Described by officials as “a beast,” and a “multi-headed monster,” the wildfires are spread over more than 10,000 hectares. It is reported to have destroyed more than 1,600 structures and has forced people to flee their homes. Dry forest conditions, strong winds and intense heat continue to fuel the fires. But it is not yet known what started the initial blaze.

Operation Lentus is a contingency plan that outlines the joint responses of the armed forces to provide support for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) to provincial and territorial authorities in time of major natural disasters that overwhelm the capacity of provincial and local departments.

The CAF is ready to provide support, as required, to the Province of Alberta in areas including:

  • The provision of air assets to assist with the evacuation of persons in distress and individuals in affected and isolated areas,
  • The provision of air assets to assist with the delivery of essential aid to affected areas, and
  • The provision of air assets to assist with transport of essential firefighting equipment and personnel to, from, and within the affected area.

The military is currently working closely with provincial officials and first response teams to provide the needed assistance, according to Brig.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, commander of Joint Task Force West based in Edmonton.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered the government’s “total support” in battling the wildfires and aiding residents of Fort McMurray escape to safety.

Operation LENTUS can draw personnel and assets from across Canada, and may be drawn from any or all of the primary force-generators of the Canadian Armed Forces

In addition, specialized abilities such as engineering, health services, force protection, transport, aviation or logistics may also be employed.

Once tasked, Canadian Joint Operations Command coordinates the personnel, vehicles, equipment, crews and aircraft to be employed in the region affected by the disaster, in coordination with the respective regional joint task force.



Author: Nestor Arellano

Nestor Arellano is editor of Vanguard Magazine. Nestor is a seasoned journalist who has written extensively on defence and military industry issues as well as technology and business developments. He is also associate editor of Vanguard's sister publication, IT in Canada.

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