Canadian Armed Forces responding to Fort McMurray wildfire crisis

According to reports, as of today (May 6), there have been approximately 85,000 hectares (95,000 acres) and 2,000 structures destroyed by the wildfire in Fort McMurray. Ryan Tyler Photo
The Canadian Armed Forces have deployed a number of aircraft in response to the wildfire crisis in Fort McMurray, Alta.
“We are very closely integrated with the province of Alberta, in terms of planning and responding to this crisis,” said BGen Wayne Eyre, commander, Joint Task Force West, during a media conference on May 4.
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Alberta has asked the Canadian Armed Forces to assist municipal and provincial authorities with evacuating persons in distress and those in isolated areas; to help with the delivery of essential aid in affected areas; and to potentially assist with transporting essential firefighting equipment and personnel to remote regions. 
In response, the Canadian Armed Forces have quickly deployed four Bell CH-146 Griffon helicopters; two from 408 Squadron in Edmonton, and two from 4 Wing Cold Lake. Transport aircraft from 8 Wing Trenton, Ont., are on stand-by. 
The Canadian Armed Forces deployed four Bell CH-146 Griffon helicopters in order to assist with evacuations, delivery of essential aid, as well as transporting essential firefighting equipment and personnel to remote regions. Cpl Manuela Berger Photo
“What we’re looking at providing are unique capabilities that the province does not have,” said Eyre. “So right now, the ask is for additional helicopters to support with the evacuation.”
Eyre noted that the reopening of Highway 63 will make ground evacuation easier for the majority of Fort McMurray’s population, so the use of fixed-wing support is much less likely.
“That being said, we still have a number of aircraft—specifically a CC-130J Hercules and a CC-177 Globemaster III—on stand-by, should they be required either to support evacuation or, as the request stated, to transport essential firefighting equipment and personnel into some of the isolated locations,” he added.
The Canadian Armed Forces has a CC-130J Hercules and a CC-177 Globemaster III—on stand-by, should they be required either to support evacuation or to transport essential firefighting equipment and personnel into some of the isolated locations. Mike Reyno Photo
According to reports, as of today, May 6, there have been approximately 85,000 hectares (95,000 acres) and 2,000 structures destroyed by the wildfire. The crisis is now formally known as Operation Lentus 16-01, and may require support from other parts of the country.
“My understanding is the province may be going to Level 4 today, which will activate the mutual agreements they have with other provinces, and through their memorandums of understanding, will have other trained firefighters flown in from neighbouring provinces, and indeed neighbouring states,” said Eyre on May 4.
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In that case, the Hercules will be used for ground support and to deploy crews into hard-to-access areas.
“They are on stand-by should the request come,” said Eyre. “We are in the process of pre-positioning one at Cold Lake, which is relatively close to where the incident is. As well, we have a number of aircraft on stand-by back at Trenton.”
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo tweeted an update on May 4 reporting that approximately 88,000 people had already been evacuated.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been displaced by this disaster, and as well for the continued safety of all who are involved in this incident,” said Eyre. “The work that the province is doing is tremendous, but these are some very trying circumstances, and as always, your armed forces stand ready to support our first responders.” 
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has been providing constant updates on the wildfire crisis.

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