Operation LENTUS

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

Operation LENTUS is the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) response to natural disasters in Canada.

Provincial and territorial authorities are the first to respond when a major natural disaster occurs in Canada. If they become overwhelmed, they may ask the CAF for help.  When the CAF responds to such a crisis, it is known as Operation LENTUS.

Operation LENTUS follows an established plan of action to support communities in crisis. This plan can be adapted to multiple situations. These might take the form of forest fires, floods, ice storms, or hurricanes.

The objectives of Op LENTUS are:

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

Attention: CAF successfully completes mission to assist with wildfire situations in British Columbia and Manitoba

From July to September 2017, the CAF assisted assist British Columbia and Manitoba with their wildfire situations.

British Columbia

After a request for assistance from the government of British Columbia, the CAF began sending troops and aircraft to the region on July 9.  On September 15, the government of British Columbia confirmed an end to its state of emergency, and that it no longer needed CAF assistance.  

The CAF conducted the following tasks during this mission:

  • Supported provincial firefighters in firefighting operations
  • Evacuated locals
  • Transported first responders and equipment
  • Delivered essential aid to isolated communities
  • Assisted the RCMP in providing information to the public and conducting observation and reporting tasks at assigned points along access roads in affected areas

The following aircraft were deployed:

  • Two CC-130J Hercules
  • One CC-130H Hercules
  • Two CH-147F Chinook helicopters
  • Three CH-146 Griffon helicopters
  • A CC-177 Globemaster III
  • A CC-124 Sea King helicopter

About 150 vehicles were also deployed.

At the height of this mission, the CAF employed approximately 800 troops in the province. In total, more than 2000 troops from across Canada provided support to the Province over the course of the operation.

Manitoba

From August 31 to September 3, 2017, two CC-130H Hercules transported First Nation evacuees from Northern Manitoba to Winnipeg due to wildfires and smoke. The aircraft conducted 12 flights, evacuating 1119 people. Six Canadian Rangers helped with evacuations by moving evacuees by boat to the airport from which the Hercules aircraft were conducting flights.

CAF assistance due to flooding in 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 CAF members and assets from across Canada. This might include ships, vehicles, aircraft, and equipment. They may come from any or all of the following:

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

CAF members who respond can specialize in areas such as:

  • engineering
  • health services
  • force protection
  • transportation
  • aviation
  • logistics

A central CAF command unit directs the operation. This is the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC).  CJOC coordinates the response 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.  Provincial and territorial authorities may need immediate help from the CAF if the crisis is severe. The CAF will respond when asked to help mitigate the effects of the disaster.

Past missions

2017

2017

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 federal government for help. The request was for an emergency response at the Kashechewan First Nation. The province thought there would be potential flooding along the Albany River.

CAF members from 3 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group assisted in:

  • evacuating community residents
  • conducting land reconnaissance
  • monitoring river levels in the area

On May 1, 2017, the Province of Ontario advised that help from CAF members was no longer required.

Operation LENTUS 17-01: New Brunswick

The Province of New Brunswick requested CAF assistance on January 27, 2017. This followed a destructive ice storm. The Province asked the CAF to look over the area to determine how it could help. The first troops arrived within 24 hours.

The Province made a second request for help on January 29. It asked for federal assistance in the form of CAF members and assets to conduct a variety of tasks. These included:

  • delivering emergency supplies
  • helping to re-establish road networks
  • going door to door to check on residents in the Northeast of the province

About 200 CAF members went to New Brunswick. They 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
  • delivered eight pallets of water
  • delivered 34 truckloads of firewood

The Province announced on February 5, 2017, that remaining relief efforts in some areas were within provincial and municipal capabilities.  The CAF then began to reduce the military presence in those areas.

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

2016

2016

Operation LENTUS 16-01: Fort McMurray, Alberta

The Province of Alberta asked for CAF assistance on May 4, 2016. This request followed the intense wildfires in Alberta.  The Province asked for help with their emergency response to the wildfire in Fort McMurray.

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

  • 65 CAF members
  • 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
  • carried a total of 367 evacuees to safe areas
  • carried 173 firefighters in and out of the affected area

The Op LENTUS 16-01 Air Task Force worked from Conklin, Alberta. During the operation it:

  • conducted one search and rescue mission
  • conducted eight reconnaissance flights over fire-affected areas and critical infrastructure
  • conducted eight night flights using technology to monitor the fire

The Province of Alberta assessed the situation on May 12, 2016. It determined that CAF air assets were no longer needed as support to respond to the Fort McMurray wildfires.  On May 13, 2016, all participating CAF assets returned to their home units.

2015

2015

Operation LENTUS 15-02: Northern Saskatchewan

The Province of Saskatchewan asked for help from the federal government on July 4, 2015. This request followed intense wildfires.  As a result, about 850 CAF members were sent to northern Saskatchewan. They supported local and provincial firefighting by:

  • conducting fire line operations. This included patrols, surveillance, digging and fire control
  • conducting fire line operations near towns and critical infrastructure
  • putting out hotspots in and around vulnerable communities
  • providing logistic support

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) sent two CH-146 Griffon helicopters to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. They went to carry CAF members around the area as needed. The CAF also had about 230 vehicles in the Prince Albert area.

In total, CAF members served for 12 days on fire line operations. The mission ran from July 8 to 20.

Operation LENTUS 15-01: Kashechewan, Ontario

The Province of Ontario made a request for help on April 27, 2015. The CAF then supported the Province. It provided air assets and crews to help transport residents of Kashechewan who were preparing for spring flooding.

RCAF helicopters were placed on standby and moved close to the affected region. They were there to help the province evacuate people if needed. Several Canadian Rangers from the affected communities also helped in the voluntary evacuations.

2014

2014

Operation LENTUS 14-05: Manitoba

The Province of Manitoba declared a state of emergency following intense flooding. It asked for help from the federal government on July 4, 2014. As a result, 500 CAF members were sent to help. They supported provincial authorities by:

  • helping fill and place sandbags
  • delivering sandbags to remote areas
  • helping build barriers to protect critical infrastructure

Four CH-146 Griffon helicopters were sent from 408 Squadron in Edmonton. They conducted flights over the affected area.

Operation LENTUS 14-03: Northern Ontario

The CAF helped evacuate residents of Attawapiskat First Nations between May 17 and 20.  In total, 165 residents were evacuated via two airlifts from the area during this period.

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

Operation LENTUS 14-02: Northern Ontario

The CAF helped evacuate residents of Kashechewan, Ontario, between May 10 and 12.  In total, 730 people were evacuated via airlift from Kashechewan during this period.

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

Operation LENTUS 14-01: Northern Ontario

The CAF supported the Province of Ontario in May 2014.  It helped evacuate communities in the James Bay region. The area was affected by spring flooding caused by ice jams. Three CAF operations took place to help these communities. (Op LENTUS 14-01, 14-02, and 14-03)

The CAF helped evacuate residents of Kashechewan and Fort Albany, Ontario (approximately 400 km north of Timmins, Ontario). This took place between May 7 and 8.  In total, 90 people were evacuated via airlift.

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

 

2013

2013

Operation LENTUS 13-01: Southern Alberta

The CAF responded to a Request for Assistance from the Province of Alberta in June 2013. The province asked for help with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. This was requested because of major flooding in Southern Alberta.

2011

2011

Operation FORGE: Northwest Ontario

The CAF assisted local authorities in Northwestern Ontario in July 2011.  It helped in evacuating residents in the area who were threatened by forest fires. Six CC-130 Hercules aircraft and crews flew a total of 42 missions. In total, they evacuated 3,614 people from:

  • Deer Lake
  • Cat Lake
  • Fort Hope
  • Keewaywin
  • Kingfisher Lake
  • Kasabonika
  • Sandy Lake

Operation LUSTRE: Southern Manitoba

The CAF assisted local authorities in Manitoba with Operation LUSTRE in May 2011.  This was in response to flooding of the Assiniboine River in Southern Manitoba.

Operation LOTUS: Montérégie region of Québec

The CAF responded to a request for help from the Province of Québec in May 2011 with Operation LOTUS. This was the CAF response to help the Province with flooding in the Montérégie region of Québec.

2010

2010

Operation LAMA: Southern and eastern Newfoundland

The CAF responded to a request for help from the Province of Newfoundland in September 2010. The CAF launched Operation LAMA to help the Province following Hurricane Igor.  At its peak, Operation LAMA involved more than 1,000 CAF regular and reserve members. They helped some 40 communities that had been cut off by storm damage.

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