Operation Lentus has landed, in the Okanagan.
With a state of emergency underway in B.C., the Canadian Armed Forces have come to lend a hand.
See related: Crews getting a handle on fires near Cherryville
Dozens of green trucks drove over from Edmonton Thursday and Friday, arriving in Vernon, where the Cadet camp will act as a staging ground and headquarters. After arriving in Vernon, some the troops who are doing mop-up have moved to a fire camp in Merrit. These members are conducting mop up activities in both the Gottfriedson and Juliet Creek fire areas. Another approximately 100 soldiers from 1 PPCLI arrived at the Vernon cadet camp Tuesday. They will be operating in the Lumby area conducting mop-up activities on the Harris Creek fire, beginning Thursday.
Soldiers based in Vernon will act as a hub to co-ordinate the movemebts of both groups of soldiers and provide a support function.
Troops will remain in the area until the province’s need for federal assistance is satisfied.
“The Primary Reserve from British Columbia as well as Canadian Rangers will deploy along with the initial troops from CFB Edmonton,” said Major Lena Angell. “As citizens of the Province of B.C., Army Reservists and Canadian Rangers are motivated to help Canadians in their time of need and will initially augment the Immediate Reaction Unit that is surging now into the affected area. We are continuously planning and assessing to determine the best composition of our force.”
The first wave of approximately 100 soldiers from 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, from one Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group departed Edmonton, AB, on Wednesday, Aug. 15. The group deployed with approximately 50 support vehicles consisting of medium and heavy transport trucks, ambulances maintenance and utility vehicles.
The second wave of soldiers from one Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group departed Edmonton Thursday, Aug. 16, heading to Merritt.
To date one Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group has deployed approximately 170 personnel on Op Lentus.
“Over the next 24 hours CAF will continue to deploy into B.C. as tasks are identified by B.C. Wildfire Service,” Angell said Thursday. “Upon arrival, CAF members immediately transition into preparation for mop-up duties.”
CAF began mop-up activities Saturday at the Gottfriedsen Mountain fire near West Kelowna.
Also on Saturday, approximately 35 Reserve Force members from 39 Canadian Brigade Group joined the Canadian Armed Forces members already on the ground.
Private Logan Marion was helping to direct traffic into the staging area Thursday, seeking shade and water.
“It’s hot, dry and smoky,” said Marion, who was born and raised in Cranbrook but has been in Edmonton for the last two years.
“I’ve been on standby, four hours notice to move since Thursday (Aug. 9).”
Despite the conditions, he was happy to be back in the Okanagan, where he remembers playing football (in Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops) with his team, the Rocky Mountain Rams.
It’s unknown how long troops will be in the area on their mission to help relieve firefighters.
It’s a change of pace for Marion, who spends Monday to Friday, 9-5, training with the infantry third battalion.
“Other than domestic operations, we’re trained to be ready to fight,” he said.
“There’s other times where you are sleeping on the ground for two months.”