CFB Edmonton prepares forward operating location to help respond to B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Armed Forces are preparing a forward operating location to gather personnel and equipment to be ready should they be called on to assist emergency crews responding to wildfires in British Columbia.

Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Edmonton has been selected as the forward base where the armed force’s immediate response unit is on standby, as well as additional personnel and equipment, should a formal request for assistance be made.

Jessica Lamirande, media relations spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, said in a statement to CTV News Edmonton that the military is closely monitoring the wildfire situation in B.C.

“We are working on prudent contingency planning and preparations are ongoing to ensure that our personnel, resources and equipment are ready and that we are prepared to respond quickly and effectively to assist, in support of civil authorities, if asked,” Lamirande said.

The forward operating location will allow for consolidated planning and equipment preparation.

Two Chinook helicopters are being sent to Edmonton from CFB Petawawa, with the first expected to arrive on Sunday.

Three Griffon helicopters in Edmonton are on standby, as well as one Hercules aircraft in Trenton.

“Should it be required, the Chinook and Griffon helicopters will be able to provide tactical airlift for firefighters and equipment in and out of affected areas, or to support to evacuation in an emergency situation,” Lamirande added.

The immediate response unit consists of 350 personnel who could support operation logistics, Lamirande said.

According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, there are 175 active fires throughout the province on Saturday, the majority of which are in the southeast Interior, Cariboo, and Prince George areas.

Thousands of homes have been evacuated in the province as fires continue to burn near dozens of communities.

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan said Friday in a press conference that the wildfire situation was shaping up to be severe and that the Canadian Forces are ready to assist if necessary.

“Canadian Armed Forces has domestic high readiness assets available to respond to a request for assistance to help,” Sajjan said.

“Given the severity of the wildfire situation in western Canada, we are established a forward operating location in Edmonton. This location will be able to provide support across the region as needed.”