The Canadian Armed Forces is preparing to deploy air support for the possible assistance of evacuation and transportation of equipment in the wake of a devastating fire that continues to rage on in northern Alberta.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been displaced by the disaster as well as for the continued safety of all of those who are involved in this incident. The work the province is doing is tremendous but these are some very trying circumstances and as always your Armed Forces is ready to support all the first responders,” said Brigadier-General Wayne Eyre, Commander, Joint Task Force (West).
The Province of Alberta has reached out to the CAF calling on assistance in a number of areas including assisting municipal and provincial authorities to evacuate personnel and deliver essential aid, assist in the evacuation of isolated areas and the deployment of equipment and personnel in these isolated areas.
Currently, four CH 146 Griffin Helicopters are being deployed to Fort McMurray to assist in evacuation efforts. Along with the four helicopter crews, a number of ground personnel will also be deployed.
“We’ve been asked by the province to provide aircraft to support search and rescue, to assist provincial parties in supporting evacuation civilians from some of the surrounding and more isolated communities and to provide extra airlift on the ground to get some of these provincial firefighters at the right place at the right time,” added Eyre.
Personnel are largely being deployed out of 408 Helicopter Squadron in Edmonton and 4 Wing Cold Lake.
The CAF also has a number of C-130 Hercules and C-17 on standby, if needed for evacuation or transportation, with a C-130 out of Trenton prepositioned in Cold Lake for quick response time.
“As always we are poised to provide further support, should the ask come, and our planners are working very very closely with the provincial planners,” mentioned Eyre.
The wildfire broke out on Sunday and appeared to be dying down until winds shifted in mid-afternoon Tuesday. Flames quickly turned towards the oil sands city.
It is reported that the entire city of Fort McMurray has been evacuated, and 20,000 evacuees are expected to arrive in Edmonton, the largest wildfire evacuation in the history of the province.
So far, estimates are that 1,600 structures have been destroyed, and 7,500 hectares have been set ablaze. There is currently no end in sight.
Feature Image Courtesy of Tim Fortin – Flicker