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
Flood relief in Ontario and Quebec
On 19 April 2019, provincial authorities in New Brunswick and Québec submitted requests for federal assistance to assist with flood relief operations. Shortly thereafter, the Ministers of Public Safety and National Defence committed support from the CAF. On April 25th, the CAF received a request for federal assistance from the Province of Ontario.
On May 3, 2019, the CAF concluded its deployment in New Brunswick. The CAF continues to support in Ontario and Quebec.
Soldiers, sailors and aviators are helping local and provincial partners in Ontario and Quebec.
Here’s what they’re doing:
- Filling and moving sandbags
- Providing assistance to citizens
- Conducting wellness checks
- Clearing routes
- Assisting with the evacuation of persons
- Supporting efforts to protect property from flooding.
How many people are deployed?
The number of people deployed is based on the scale of the natural disaster. Provincial authorities will submit a request for assistance. This outlines how much help they need from the CAF.
From that, the CAF determines how many people to send, and what kinds of assets to send with them. In recent years, this has been anywhere from 60 to 2,600 members. The operation could also include ships, vehicles, aircraft, and a variety of equipment.
What are they doing?
Typically, the tasks for each iteration of Operation LENTUS depend on the type of natural disaster. Common tasks include:
- filling, distributing, and placing sandbags
- mopping up fires
- evacuating people
- transporting people
- delivering aid to remote communities
- helping law enforcement and provincial authorities to get information to the public
- checking on residents
- assessing infrastructure
History and context of the operation
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.
Canadian Armed Forces members assist with flood relief operations at the Lemieux Island Water Treatment Plant in Ottawa during Operation LENTUS, 28 April 2019. Photo: Avr Melissa Gloude, Garrison Imaging Petawawa