Operation LENTUS

CAF response to forest fires, floods, and natural disasters in Canada

When a major natural disaster occurs in Canada, provincial and territorial authorities are the first to respond. If the province or territory becomes overwhelmed by the disaster, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is ready to help. This assistance is known as Operation LENTUS.

Operation LENTUS follows an established plan of action to support the affected communities. This plan can be adapted to the unique situations that may occur, such as forest fires, floods, or hurricanes.

The objectives of Op LENTUS are:

  • to help provincial and territorial authorities
  • to respond quickly and effectively to the disaster
  • to stabilize the natural disaster situation

Attention: Update on CAF assistance due to flooding in Newfoundland

Mud Lake, Newfoundland

On May 17, 2017, the CAF evacuated 33 people from Mud Lake, Newfoundland, after significant flooding. One CH-146 Griffon helicopter from 444 Combat Support Squadron, 5 Wing Goose Bay, and one CH-149 Cormorant helicopter from 103 Search and Rescue Squadron, 9 Wing Gander, airlifted the residents and their pets to safety.

Further, after a request for help from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the CAF is providing temporary shelter for people who have been displaced and have no other lodgings. Eighteen people are staying in the military barracks at 5 Wing Goose Bay.

The task force

Operation LENTUS can draw personnel and assets such as vehicles, equipment, crews, and aircraft from across Canada from any or all of the following:

  • the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN);
  • the Canadian Army (CA); and
  • the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

Deployed personnel can specialize in areas such as engineering, health services, force protection, transportation, aviation, or logistics.

The operation is coordinated by a central command unit – the Canadian Joint Operations Command. This is done in coordination with the respective regional joint task force.

Mission context

The threat

Natural disasters can occur without warning. Hurricanes, floods and forest fires are common to certain regions and seasons in Canada. Depending on the severity, provincial and territorial authorities may require immediate support from the CAF to help mitigate the impact of the disasters.

Usually, flooding occurs when the volume of water in a river or stream exceeds the capacity of the channel. It also takes place along lake and coastal shorelines, when higher than normal water levels inundate low-lying areas. Numerous factors affect streamflow, and therefore the potential for flooding. The amount and type of precipitation, the nature and condition of the drainage basin, and climate are all important factors that can cause flooding.

Ecological and human factors are the two largest contributors to wildfire. The forest type, tree age, topography and weather, as well as forestry operations and recreational access to forested backcountry increase the risk of wildfire.

Past missions



Operation LENTUS 17-03: Quebec

On May 5, 2017, the Province of Quebec requested help from the Government of Canada after severe flooding. From May 6 to June 5, 2017, the CAF helped Quebec with flood relief in five regions:

  • Montérégie
  • Outaouais
  • Mauricie
  • Montréal
  • Trois-Rivières

 The CAF sent the following assets to help with flood relief:

  • 2600 CAF members, including reservists, from:
    • 72 Canadian Army units (Regular and Reserve Forces)
    • four Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons
    • three Royal Canadian Navy Reserve units
    • one Royal Canadian Navy ship
  • 400 vehicles including trucks and armoured vehicles
  • Six CH-146 Griffon helicopters and one CH-147 Chinook helicopter, which completed:
    • 58 flights
    • 164 flight hours
  • One Halifax-class frigate, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Montréal
  • 15 small boats

While deployed, the CAF:

  • distributed and filled sandbags to help solidify and protect key infrastructure
  • used military vehicles to help civil authorities to maintain traffic on key routes and help evacuate citizens to safe areas
  • patrolled to monitor key infrastructure and the safety of citizens
  • reinforced dikes and walls to protect key infrastructure such as water treatment plants and bridges
  • helped with the cleanup of sandbags from key public infrastructure and roads, when requested by towns and cities

In total, the CAF filled, distributed, or placed over 640 000 sandbags and cleaned up over 1 000 000.

Operation LENTUS 17-02: Kashechewan, Ontario

On April 16, 2017, the Province of Ontario asked the Government of Canada to assist in the emergency response at the Kashechewan First Nation in anticipation of potential flooding along the Albany River.

CAF members from 3 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group assisted in the evacuation of community residents, conducted land reconnaissance, and monitored river levels in the area.

On May 1, 2017, the Province of Ontario informed the Government of Canada that assistance in the form of CAF personnel was no longer required.

Operation LENTUS 17-01: New Brunswick

On January 27, 2017, following a destructive ice storm, the Province of New Brunswick requested CAF assistance to conduct a reconnaissance to determine how the CAF could support relief efforts. The first troops arrived within 24 hours.

In a second request for assistance on January 29, the Province of New Brunswick requested Government of Canada assistance in the form of CAF personnel and assets to conduct a variety of tasks, including delivering emergency supplies, helping to re-establish road networks, and going door to door to check on residents in the Northeast of the province.

The main body of troops consisted of approximately 200 CAF members who were sent to communities in the Northeast of the province.

Over the course of the operation, the troops surveyed more than 1,100 km of roads, visited 5,400 houses, and delivered eight pallets of water and 34 truckloads of firewood.On February 5, 2017, the CAF started to draw down the military presence in areas where the Province announced that remaining relief efforts were within provincial and municipal capabilities.

On February 6, 2017, the remaining CAF members finished assisting New Brunswick’s relief efforts and returned to their home units.



Operation LENTUS 16-01: Fort McMurray, Alberta

On May 4, 2016, following intense wildfires, the Province of Alberta requested CAF assistance with their emergency response to the wildfire situation in Fort McMurray.

On May 12, 2016, the Province of Alberta assessed that the contribution of Canadian Armed Forces air assets to support provincial resources in responding to the wildfires in Fort McMurray was no longer required. On May 13, 2016, all participating CAF assets returned to normal duties.

In support of the Province of Alberta, the CAF deployed:

  • 65 CAF personnel
  • four CH-146 Griffon helicopters
  • one CH-147 Chinook helicopter
  • one CC-130J Hercules aircraft

During Op LENTUS 16-01 Joint Task Force West shipped 124,700 lbs. of freight, transported a total of 367 evacuees to safe areas, and transported 173 firefighters in and out of the affected area.

Working from Conklin, Alberta, the Air Task Force conducted one search and rescue mission, eight reconnaissance flights over fire-affected areas and critical infrastructure, and eight night surveillance flights that employed technology to monitor the fire at night.



Operation LENTUS 15-02: Northern Saskatchewan

Following intense wildfires, the Province of Saskatchewan requested support from the Federal Government on July 4, 2015. As a result, approximately 850 CAF members deployed to northern Saskatchewan to support local and provincial firefighting efforts by:

  • conducting fire line operations including patrols, surveillance, digging and control
  • conducting fire line operations near cities and critical infrastructure
  • putting out hotspots in and around vulnerable communities
  • providing logistic support such as moving fire hoses

The Royal Canadian Air Force deployed two CH-146 Griffon helicopters to Prince Albert to transport CAF personnel as required, and the CAF had approximately 230 vehicles in the Prince Albert area.

In total, CAF members completed 12 days of fire line operations, from July 8 to 20.

Operation LENTUS 15-01: Kashechewan, Ontario

Following a Request for Assistance on April 27, 2015, the CAF supported the Province of Ontario in providing assistance to residents of Kashechewan affected by spring flooding.

RCAF rotary wing assets were placed on standby and prepositioned close to the affected region in order to complement provincial air evacuation if the need arose. Several Canadian Rangers from the affected communities assisted in voluntary evacuation activities.



Operation LENTUS 14-05: Manitoba

Following intense flooding, the Province of Manitoba declared a state of emergency and requested support from the Federal Government on 4 July 2014. As a result, 500 CAF members deployed to support provincial authorities with:

  • protecting critical infrastructure, including assisting with sandbagging productiondelivering sandbags to remote areasassisting with the construction of barriers to protect critical infrastructure;
  • Four CH-146 Griffon helicopters from 408 Squadron in Edmonton deployed to conduct flights over the affected area.

Operation LENTUS 14-03: Northern Ontario

In May 2014, the Canadian Armed Forces supported the Province of Ontario in the assistance to communities in the James Bay region affected by spring flooding.

Between 17 and 20 May, the Canadian Armed Forces provided evacuation support to the residents of Attawapiskat First Nations. The CC-130 conducted two flights to evacuate 165 residents.

CC-130 Hercules aircraft provided air evacuation and Canadian Rangers from the community assisted in voluntary evacuation activities.

Operation LENTUS 14-02: Northern Ontario

In May 2014, the Canadian Armed Forces supported the Province of Ontario in the assistance to communities in the James Bay region affected by spring flooding.

Between 10 and 12 May, 730 people were evacuated via airlift from Kashechewan.

CC-130 Hercules aircraft provided air evacuation and Canadian Rangers from the community assisted in voluntary evacuation activities.

Operation LENTUS 14-01: Northern Ontario

In May 2014, the Canadian Armed Forces supported the Province of Ontario in the assistance to communities in the James Bay region affected by spring flooding caused by ice jams, due to ice breaking apart during the spring season thaw. Three operations took place to support these communities.

Between 7 and 8 May, the Canadian Armed Forces provided evacuation support to the residents of Kashechewan and Fort Albany, Ontario (approximately 400 km north of Timmins, Ontario). In total, 90 people were evacuated via airlift.

CC-130 Hercules aircraft provided air evacuation and Canadian Rangers from the community assisted in voluntary evacuation activities.




Operation LENTUS 13-01: Southern Alberta

Operation LENTUS 13-01 was the CAF answer to a request for assistance by the Province of Alberta in June 2013 to provide support for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations due to major flooding in Southern Alberta.



Operation FORGE: Northwest Ontario

In July 2011, the CAF provided assistance to local authorities by evacuating residents in northwest Ontario threatened by forest fires. Six CC-130 Hercules military transport aircraft flew a total of 42 missions, evacuating 3,614 people from Deer Lake, Cat Lake, Fort Hope, Keewaywin, Kingfisher Lake, Kasabonika and Sandy Lake.

Operation LUSTRE: Southern Manitoba

Operation LUSTRE involved CAF assistance to local authorities during the May 2011 floods of the Assiniboine River in Southern Manitoba.

Operation LOTUS: Montérégie region of Québec

Operation LOTUS was the CAF joint response to a request by the Province of Québec for assistance in controlling floods in the Montérégie region of Québec in May 2011.



Operation LAMA: Southern and eastern Newfoundland

In September 2010, Hurricane Igor hit southern and eastern Newfoundland and the CAF were requested to assist. At its peak, Operation LAMA involved more than 1,000 regular and reserve personnel who assisted some 40 communities isolated by storm damage left in the wake of Hurricane Igor.

External Links

Government of Canada

Flooding in Canada
Natural hazards in Canada
Emergency response



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