Joint Task Force Pacific – Firefighting help from afar

Firefighting help from afar

SLt M.X.Déry, MARPAC Public Affairs ~

When the B.C. government requested assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces during the wildfires this past summer, Joint Task Force Pacific (JTFP) stood up a Battle Watch Operations Center in CFB Esquimalt in order to coordinate assistance where required.

The Intelligence Section of JTFP was given the task of determining the areas near the fires that were at risk, and, where possible, evacuation operations that might be required during the months of wildfire activity.

“We tracked hundreds of fires, routinely doing analysis on the threat these fires posed to civilian populations, and finding ways for the Canadian Armed Forces to assist residents,” said Acting Sub-Lieutenant Alex Webb, Intelligence Officer.

He oversaw and directed a team of analysts working to track fires, and predict where and how fire or smoke could impact flight operations, and ultimately evacuations.

“We sifted through topographic and cartographic data to determine the ­hazards to our fire-control teams, easing the burden on B.C. Wildfire Service firefighters and helping enable their work on the most threatening fires,” he added.

Working in consort with Capt Frédéric Bok, Intelligence Officer from 5th Service Battalion, he lead four Intelligence Operators, acting as analysts during the 16 hour days, doing quality control checks on the written reports and verbal briefings provided daily, and managing the flow of information from multiple sources.

“Daily, the team produced briefings, environmental analyses, airfield operability summaries, evacuation projections, and any other products requested from them by the soldiers working to combat the fire,” said A/SLt Webb, adding that it was an impressive feat for operators from all over Canada who had to learn the idiosyncrasies of B.C. in order to work effectively.

Three Intelligence Operators were deployed from seven Intelligence Company in Ottawa, and one from two Intelligence Company in Toronto.

“The Intelligence section for Operation Lentus provided command with tremendous support and allowed us as a joint task force to assist the Province of B.C.,” said Capt(N) Steve Jorgensen, J3 Director Plans and Operations.

As a result, provincial agencies were provided the assistance they needed to effectively combat the fires and ensure the continued safety of Canadians.

Op Lentus 18-05 lasted from Aug. 13 to Sept. 13 and involved hundreds of Canadian Army personnel, dozens of RCAF members and various fixed and rotary wing RCAF aircraft. The intelligence section was part of the 40 JTFP personnel working out of the JTF headquarters in Esquimalt, BC.

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