Ontario Canadian Rangers learn new firefighting skill at Exercise Ranger Tracker 2021

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Canadian Ranger Hondy Atlookan from the Northern Ontario community of Fort Hope practices wildfire fighting techniques during a recent training exercise outside Thunder Bay as part of a new pilot project between the Canadian Armed Forces and the MNRF. MCpl Chris Vernon/photo
Canadian Ranger Hondy Atlookan from the Northern Ontario community of Fort Hope practices wildfire fighting techniques during a recent training exercise outside Thunder Bay as part of a new pilot project between the Canadian Armed Forces and the MNRF. MCpl Chris Vernon/photo

By Ranger MCpl Chris Vernon

Recently during a Canadian Ranger training exercise, Exercise Ranger Tracker 2021, 21 Rangers completed a pilot project between the Third Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3CRPG) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), Oct 17-25.

Along with confirming their ground search and rescue (GSAR) techniques, the Rangers learned a new firefighting skill taught by MNRF staff at the ministry’s two northern wildfire management facilities at the Rinker Lake Forward Attack Base and Attack Base Armstrong outside Thunder Bay.
It was the first time Rangers from the 3CRPG received the 40-hour MNRF training package which taught them both in-class wildfire control theory, and practical field work. Once Rangers complete the in-class firefighting theory, they must show that they have learned the concepts by completing several tasks in the rugged Armstrong terrain, including finding a suitable natural water source, water pump set-up, running and connecting fire hoses in a forest environment, and the challenging task of “strangling” a charged hose with a clamp so another section of hose can be attached.

During the exercise, the Commander of the 4th Canadian Division/Joint Task Force (Central), Brigadier-General Peter Scott, Division Sergeant-Major Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Robin, and 3CRPG’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Shane McArthur put boots on the ground to observe the inaugural training.

“I am really happy to have the opportunity to see the Rangers learning this training and what you are going through, because what you do is really important. It’s important to me. You are, for the last 18 months, the face of the Canadian Armed Forces on domestic operations,” Brigadier-General Scott told the Rangers and their instructors before they commenced the day’s training.

To work as a wildfire firefighting crew member in Ontario, the Rangers must complete both army and MNRF training before they are qualified to fight wildfires on a crew, and only while under the request and supervision of a qualified MNRF fire officer.

“I am pleased to be here to see this training being conducted. I am glad we can offer it to you because it allows us all to better serve your communities. I know we often call upon the Rangers, the country knows this too, and I thank you all for your support,” Lieutenant-Colonel McArthur told the Rangers and their training instructors.

The partnership will enhance MNRF response capabilities in Northern Ontario and the Rangers’ First Nations communities, while solidifying partnerships with the CAF/3CRPG, added Lieutenant-Colonel McArthur.

2021 has been a particularly destructive wildfire season in Ontario, with more than 680,700 hectares of land burned to date.

Along with the wildfire firefighter education training, Rangers also conducted various GSAR techniques, including map and compass navigation, conducting night searches on ATVs, and casualty first-aid and evacuation.

While Rangers applied their training in several scenarios, including finding a lost hunter at night in the dense northern bush, their training instructors played the role of search managers and directed the ATV-mounted search teams from a command post via satellite phones.

“This allows us to get practice and use actual search teams on the ground in our search management. We are practicing the fundamentals and seeing if our plans work,” said Master Warrant Officer Carl Wolfe.

The Canadian Rangers are members of the Primary Army Reserve. Anyone can join the Rangers, however members are predominantly First Nation and live and serve part-time in their Far North communities.

Cutline: Canadian Ranger Hondy Atlookan from the Northern Ontario community of Fort Hope practices wildfire fighting techniques during a recent training exercise outside Thunder Bay as part of a new pilot project between the Canadian Armed Forces and the MNRF.
MCpl Chris Vernon/photo