Chinook helicopter heads to B.C. Interior fire zone carrying fire vehicle from CFB Comox. (MCpl Gabrielle DesRochers, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

Soldiers from Edmonton head for fire zone

225 army members, vehicles on way to Williams Lake

Canadian Forces soldiers and vehicles are on their way from Edmonton to Williams Lake today, to help RCMP and firefighters manage the wildfire situation in the B.C. Interior.

Army troops are being added to the Royal Canadian Air Force contingent from CFB Comox already helping with operations, using helicopters and cargo aircraft to move equipment to and from fire zones.

The soldiers, passing through Prince George and expected to set up a base in Williams Lake Thursday, are to provide and assistance with traffic movements and support the 500 RCMP officers on the ground in B.C. for fire duty.

The soldiers will be mostly unarmed, said Rear Admiral Art McDonald, in charge of deployment. They are travelling in more than 60 vehicles, including 10 light armoured vehicles designed for rugged terrain.

They are members of the Third Canadian Division Edmonton garrison, the closest army base to B.C.

“Members of the Joint Task Force Pacific land task force … will not be conducting law enforcement activities and will not be armed,” McDonald said. “However, some Canadian Armed Forces personnel will have weapons to protect our personnel from predatory animals when they are not able to deter those animals by other means and without causing them any harm.”

RCMP assistant commissioner Eric Stubbs said the soldiers will be guided by RCMP in fire zones to assist with evacuations, re-entry and security of evacuated areas, freeing up RCMP officers for core policing duties.

Since the provincial state of emergency was declared July 7, CFB Comox has deployed CC177 Globemaster and CC130J Hercules cargo aircraft, three CH146 Griffin helicopters, and two CH147 Chinook helicopters operating out of Kamloops airport.

They have flown 37 missions as of Thursday in support of firefighting operations.