By Master Corporal Chris Vernon
An Ontario Canadian Ranger recently received a prestigious military commendation for his service helping evacuate residents from his First Nation community of Pikangikum after it became encircled by forest fires in 2019.
Canadian Ranger Sergeant Buster Kurahara was presented with the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Commendation in May by the command team of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (3 CRPG), Lieutenant-Colonel Shane McArthur and Chief Warrant Officer James Currier.
In the summer of 2019, Sergeant Kurahara and nine other Canadian Rangers were called into service three times when separate forest fires threatened their community.
“When I found out that I was getting something of that high honour, I was speechless,” said Sergeant Kurahara.
According to Kurahara, one fire began as a dump fire that grew out of control.
“I was on my way out of town and when I got to the hotel, I got the call to turn around and come back. The fire had encircled the town,” said Kurahara.
A state of emergency was issued, and the remote community’s 3,000 residents were ordered to evacuate by plane with the assistance of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
“I am very proud of Sergeant Kurahara. His actions are typical of the professionalism of all the Rangers when they are called upon to respond in the north,” said Lieutenant-Colonel McArthur.
The commendation to Sergeant Kurahara reads that “From May to July 2019, Ranger Kurahara was deployed to the Pikangikum First Nation as part of the Canadian Armed Forces operation to evacuate personnel due to heavy smoke from approaching wildfires.”
“I never left. I didn’t want to leave my people. I am receiving this commendation for the entire Ranger [Patrol]. It’s for all of them,” said Sergeant Kurahara.
Pikangikum is an Ojibwe First Nation located 100 kms north of the town of Red Lake, in the Unorganized Kenora District.
The Canadian Rangers are a 5,000-member sub-component of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Primary Reserve army force, whose mandate is to provide a military presence in Canada’s far north. In Ontario, many members live and serve in First Nation communities.
3CRPG is headquartered near Barrie at Canadian Forces Base Borden and has been exceptionally busy operationally the last several years responding to the pandemic, wildfires, and flooding in far north communities above the 50th Parallel.