As wildfires ripped through Manitoba last week, the Canadian Red Cross lead the rescue effort from two First Nations communities. More than 1,000 people were flown to safety with the Red Cross receiving additional support from the Canadian Armed Forces.
On May 23, the CAF started preparing for their part in the rescue efforts.
Public Safety of Canada, the RCMP, and Indigenous Services Canada worked together in supporting the Canadian Red Cross and the Province of Manitoba to get people out of harm’s way.
“What we ended up doing in terms of our commitment, we had three aircraft involved in the course of two days. On Wednesday, we had a CH-147 Chinook, it’s actually based at CFB Petawawa, and it was on its way back from an exercise in Alberta,” said Captian David Lavallee, public affairs officer,1 Canadian Air Division.
The Chinook was in Thunder Bay on the morning of May 23, before it was called to go to Winnipeg. From Winnipeg, it flew to Little Grand Rapids First Nations and began evacuating people to Red Lake, ON.
“The reason for that is because the airfield at Little Grand Rapids couldn’t accommodate the Hercules, so it brought people to Red Lake, which had an airfield that could accommodate the Herc,” said Lavallee.
From there, the CC-130H Hercules from Winnipeg flew the evacuees from Red Lake back to Winnipeg. On May 24, a CC-130J Hercules based in Trenton flew from 8 Wing to Red Lake.
“It was there for a chunk of the day while it waited for people to come in and load up with the evacuees and took them to Winnipeg and I think they got here late last night (May 24, 2018), early afternoon,” added Lavallee.
Following the evacuation, they were advised by their emergency manager partners the military would no longer be needed and stood down.
According to officials, the fire started near Little Grand Rapids. Due to dry spring conditions, the fire quickly spread, covering about 200 square kilometers.
To date, Manitoba has had 164 wildfires this year.