Operation Lentus: B.C. wildfire response a team effort

A member of the Ministry of Forests Flathead Unit Crew is greeted by Sergeant Neil Maclean at Puntzi Mountain Airport. Photo by MS Roxanne Wood, 19 Wing Imaging

A member of the Ministry of Forests Flathead Unit Crew is greeted by Sergeant Neil Maclean at Puntzi Mountain Airport. Photo by MS Roxanne Wood, 19 Wing Imaging

Joint Task Force Pacific Public Affairs ~

Since the start of Operation Lentus on July 9 in B.C.’s interior, more than 40 members of Joint Task Force Pacific (JTFP), representing all three military environments and several base branches, maintain 24/7 rotations at the Battle Watch Operations Centre located at the JTFP Headquarters in HMC Dockyard.

This multidisciplinary team maintains situational awareness of the wildfires, in close liaison with deployed military members, and municipal, provincial and other federal authorities, in order to provide the Commander JTFP with the information needed for him to direct the Canadian Armed Forces support of the emergency response, as requested by the province.

“From the moment a provincial emergency was declared, JTFP liaison officers embedded in the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre and the Provincial Region Emergency Operation Centres were engaged in advising the province as to how the CAF (Canadian Armed Forces) might best assist,” says Rear-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander JTFP. “The JTFP operations team was at work developing plans for how we, as a headquarters, would support a response effort that might include assets from across the CAF inventory. As a result, when the Chief of Defence Staff ordered a JTFP-led response to the provincial request for assistance, the Formation was in a good position to exercise immediate command and control of the assigned forces, and demonstrate CAF readiness.”

It is not often the navy leads joint task forces that include Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) assets in a land-based joint operating area.  However, Army and Air Force staffs within the JTFP HQ construct ensure a seamless assumption of domestic operations command and control owing to their preparatory work guided by Contingency Plan Lentus.

“The Contingency Plan is a great start point, and the team that implements that plan is the crucial piece,” says Capt(N) Steve Jorgensen, JTFP J3. “In a very short period of time we activated our Battle Watch, augmented key capabilities, took control of deployed assets, and were on task delivering needed support quickly.”

Contingency Plan Lentus is the CAF’s response to domestic emergencies such as floods, fires and earthquakes anywhere in Canada.

Operation Lentus is an example of how the CAF can rapidly respond to requests for assistance from the Province of B.C. and work hand-in-hand with provincial and federal partners to address an emergency.  Each of the military environments maintain forces on heightened readiness to respond to a domestic and international emergency, and when called upon these Forces can be rapidly deployed as an initial capability to address the immediate requirement.

For Operation Lentus 17-04, this required the immediate response of the RCAF with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, followed by the deployment of elements from 3 Canadian Division Immediate Response Unit located at CFB Edmonton. This allowed time for other forces to be generated and task tailored to meet the specific needs of the mission, and additional tasks to be defined in the request for assistance. This included the Primary Reserves and other sub-components such as the Canadian Rangers. 

The Battle Watch Operations Centre in JTFP HQ is there to support the Admiral in exercising command and control over these unique CAF capabilities and, when called upon, to provide the Province of B.C. with the support requested.

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