On Monday night, some Victorians were surprised to see bright flares lighting up the chilly night sky.
On witnessing the event, one person jokingly asked “just saw this fall from the sky over Victoria. Is this the end?”
But officials say there’s no need to panic as the flares were part of a Canadian Armed Forces search and rescue training exercise (SAREX).
“The flares used last night were to enable searchers on a night training mission [to] spot a liferaft, placed in the search area by exercise coordinators,” 19 Wing Comox told Victoria Buzz.
According to the Canadian Air Forces detachment, the training exercises started on Monday night and will continue through Thursday.
“During the exercise residents and visitors in the Victoria area may notice an increase in local air traffic,” said 19 Wing in a release.
The most visible aircrafts that islanders are likely to see are the air force’s CH-149 Cormorant helicopter, the CC-115 Buffalo, and the CC-138 Twin Otter fixed-wing aircraft. All three of these vehicles share a unique yellow and red colour.
While the majority of the exercises won’t be visible to the public, 19 Wing says that if you do witness a training scenario you’re welcome to stay and observe. If you’d like to watch you must stay at least 100 metres away from the exercise, and 400 metres away if you’re on boat watching a water-based exercise.
Officials say that the training exercises are designed to simulate realistic scenarios, and will involve multiple government agencies, including the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), the Canadian Coast Guard, the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) and Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR).
While a variety of agencies are involved, the training will largely be conducted by the 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, which is based in the Comox Valley.
Here’s a shot of 442 Squadron in action last year: