North

Operation Nanook tests wildfire response in Fort Smith, N.W.T.

About 100-plus military, territorial government, and RCMP personnel are in Fort Smith as part of Operation Nanook 2015 exercises in the Northwest Territories.

Training exercises expected to enhance community’s emergency procedures

Crews clear brush in Fort Smith, N.W.T., firesmarting areas to reduce the risk to the town from wildfires, as part of Operation Nanook exercises in N.W.T. this summer. (Submitted by Brad Brake)

About 100-plus military, territorial government, and RCMP personnel are in Fort Smith as part of Operation Nanook exercises in the Northwest Territories.

The annual military training exercise is based out of Inuvik this year, with related events happening in Tuktoyaktuk, Sachs Harbour, Ulukhaktok and Fort Smith.

The Canadian Forces has declined interviews about Operation Nanook during the federal election.

The exercises in Fort Smith have been focusing on wildfire emergencies, given the situation in N.W.T. the last two summers.

"We're very much at threat of wildfire in the community," said Mayor Brad Brake.

As part of the exercise, Fort Smith walked through the process of declaring a local state of emergency, and members of the operation practised evacuating patients at the Northern Lights Special Care Home by air.

An air evacuation drill is conducted with Fort Smith ambulance personnel and the staff of the Northern Lights special care home. Mayor Brad Brake said this part of the emergency exercise 'went very well, without any problems.' (Submitted by Brad Brake)

Brake said one thing that needs to avoided is long queues at gas stations when a wildfire evacuation notice is given. He said that's valuable time wasted when a town is under threat, and has asked all residents to make sure they have at least three-quarters of a tank of gas at any given time, throughout the summer.

Other than that, Brake said he hasn't noticed many problems with the emergency plans tested so far but he did say communication between the town and the territorial government could always be improved.

"Communication is always an important role," he said.

He added that it's better to find the flaws now than in the middle of an emergency.

"It only serves to make it better for the people in the community, and to make it safer. That's really what we want to do."

Canadian military personnel converge on Fort Smith as part of Operation Nanook, an annual training exercise based in Canada's North. This is the first time Op Nanook exercises have been held in Fort Smith. (Submitted by Brad Brake)

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