The Canadian Armed Force (CAF) are very experienced in domestic operations and has been providing support to Canadians during times of natural disaster for many years now.
On July 14, the Minister of Emergency Preparedness approved a Request For Assistance from the Province of B.C. to assist fighting the wildfires and Canadian Armed Forces are deployed to assist B.C. Wildfire Service and local firefighters fight the wildfires.
Major Frederik Guay is the commanding officer at the Burns Lake operations centre who came with 70 troops from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment of Edmonton Garrison came on July 20 to serve on Operation LENTUS [the Canadian Armed Forces operation for natural disasters]. Their whole staff includes headquarters staff, service and support personnel, and engineers assigned to assist B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) directly in the field.
When asked about dealing with wildfires, Major Guay said, “No, this is my first time assisting with wildfires.” He said, he has been deployed on Operation LENTUS before, but it was for floods.
He is impressed by his troop’s dedication and morale to assist firefighters for containing blazes in this region. “It’s hard work, they’re on task and they are doing it well,” he said.
Major Guay said, “I recall 1 CER personnel from Edmonton deploying to provide assistance during the Saskatchewan wildfires in 2017.”
The soldiers assigned to support BCWS have received S-100 Fire Suppression training. The training has proved invaluable by enabling soldiers to perform essential duties such as sweeping the forest, looking for hot-spots before they can spread and by providing hose work for cooling to prevent fires from starting or reigniting. By completing these ‘Type 3’ fire mitigation duties, BCWS firefighters are freed up to directly attack wildfires in other areas.
The main focus of CAF right now is to assist B.C. Wildfire Service and contain the Tintagel wildfire. He said, when they first arrived here, they worked alongside the Vesta Unit Crews, firefighters out of Williams Lake. Then they started supporting two crews of American “Hotshots” - the “Sawtooth” crew from Idaho and the “Truckee” from California.
His troops also worked under the direction of Spencer Gregory, a wildfire division commander out of Oregon, U.S.A. ”It was a pleasure working with all these professionals,” he said.
He said the Lakes District Secondary School’s accommodation is more than adequate to sustain and the scenery is great. “Burns Lake is a great town with lots of beautiful scenery. We have everything we need to be successful.”
Since his stay in Burns Lake, he believes as a CAF member, one of the primary mandates is to assist Canadians during times of natural disaster. He also said, morale is always elevated when we help the folks at home. For some on the task force, B.C. is their home province, so coming home to help out carries a great deal of personal pride and significance to it.
To Canadians, Major Guay said, “It is always a pleasure to serve the people of Canada. We are here now, and we will always go where we are needed when asked.”
How long the CAF will stay in Burns Lake is unknown at this time.