Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

July 21, 2011 22:30 ET

Canadian Forces Update-Operation FORGE: Number of Northern Ontario Residents Evacuated from Wildfires Climbs to Over 3,000

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 21, 2011) - Since Wednesday evening, the Canadian Forces have evacuated over 500 more Canadians from northern Ontario communities, which continue to be threatened by wildfires. Five Canadian Forces CC-130 Hercules transport aircraft began flying at first light this morning from Winnipeg, Manitoba, picking up people from Sandy Lake, Kingfisher Lake and Deer Lake First Nations communities and delivering them to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

"Our Canadian Forces are operating under incredibly difficult circumstances to perform a life-saving service to Northern Ontario communities," said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. "Working around the clock, these dedicated and highly trained professionals continue to tirelessly assist Canadians who are threatened by fires across a region four times the size of Toronto. They continue to make us proud of their efforts."

Working alongside federal, municipal and provincial partners in the forest fire-ravaged communities, hundreds of Canadian Forces personnel, including aircrew, planning staff and Canadian Rangers, are involved in the ongoing disaster relief effort known as Operation FORGE.

"This is a complex operation," said Lieutenant-General Walter Semianiw, Commander of Canada Command. "The forest fires are burning near these communities, smoke is hanging in the air, and the weather is challenging, but with a concerted effort, our crews have been successfully evacuating roughly 100 people at a time."

Operation FORGE is the Canadian Forces contribution to the Whole-of-Government effort to assist the Government of Ontario in the emergency evacuation of Canadians threatened by the current wildfires. This support is currently provided mainly through airlift conducted by CC-130 Hercules aircraft from 14 Wing in Greenwood, Nova Scotia, 8 Wing in Trenton, Ontario, and 17 Wing in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Canadian Rangers from the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group are also assisting in some communities by coordinating the logistical plans, loading aircraft and communicating with the families of the community members. In addition to Canadian Rangers, the CF also deployed ground coordination teams to assist with organizing community members onto military aircraft for evacuation.

Since the beginning of July, the Canadian Forces has evacuated over 3,000 residents from the communities of Deer Lake, Cat Lake, Fort Hope, Keewaywin, Kingfisher Lake, Kasabonika and Sandy Lake.

Notes to editor / news director: Still and video imagery of evacuation operations can be found at: www.combatcamera.forces.gc.ca.

For interview requests or questions about media availabilities, please contact Captain Marshall Erickson, Media Operations Officer, at 1.807.708.7879. Captain Steven Dieter, 8 Wing Trenton PAO, can also be reached at 1.613.243.6358 or at steven.dieter@forces.gc.ca.

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