Military aircraft could help with evacuations in B.C.'s wildfire response

Canadian Armed Forces helicopter crew stand in front of a CH-147 Chinook helicopter on a stopover in Edmonton, Alta. The helicopter is on standby to support B.C.'s wildfire fight as of early July 2021. (Canadian Armed Forces/Supplied)

Canada’s military is getting ready to help with B.C.’s wildfire response, and has readied four tactical helicopters and a large military plane.

In a July 5 statement to CTV News Vancouver, a representative of the Canadian Armed Forces gave details on its agreement with the provincial government.

The “assigned support elements” – also known as aircraft and personnel – could include one CH-147F Chinook helicopter and three CH-146 Griffon helicopters, which are on standby in Edmonton, Alta., save for a copter that’s on standby in Petawawa, Ont.

A plane, the CC-130J Hercules from 8 Wing Trenton, which can carry up to 128 passengers, was also on standby in Edmonton as of Monday.

The aircraft and soldiers are prepared to help evacuate people if needed.

“(Canadian Armed Forces) personnel and air assets will provide airlift support in order to transport personnel and equipment into and out of areas affected by fires and provide emergency airlift for evacuation purposes, if required,” reads a statement from spokesperson Jessica Lamirande.

CH 147F Chinook helicopters boast a front and back propeller and according to RCAF's specs posted online, they cant travel 300 km/h for 1,100 km until needing to refuel.

Army personnel are also available to help on the ground with logistics and firefighting should it be required.

“We’re working closely with the province on finalizing the last details before being able to deploy assets into the wildfire zones ... it is critical to ensure we are in a position to provide the most effective support possible,” the statement continues.

Lamirande’s statement says the armed forces are scheduled to help B.C.’s wildfire efforts for two weeks, starting on July 4 and ending July 19.

“Periodic reassessments of the situation will be conducted in order to continuously evaluate the needs of the province and whether additional federal support is required beyond the requested period of support.”