Big bang effect – Army reservists take out big guns to trigger avalanches

Gunner David Rottluff is just moments away from setting off an avalanche.

As one of six artillery gunners preparing to fire a powerful Howitzer gun, the army reservist’s voice becomes clipped with excitement.

They’re about to trigger an avalanche in Glacier National Park that otherwise might have led to catastrophe for traffic along Rogers Pass, a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway line between Golden and Revelstoke.

For the first time since the Canadian Forces’ Operation Palaci began more than 50 years ago, reserve artillery soldiers from 5th Field Artillery Regiment at the Bay Street Armoury in Victoria are involved.

The amount of action the avalanche control teams have seen this winter has been historic – they recently fired six month’s worth of ammunition in 10 days.

“This year has been crazy,” said Victoria resident Sgt. Lisa Kachanoski, supervisor of the Victoria team deployed to the mountains. “They were shooting night and day.”

The four-member team is a special addition to the operation, tasked with calculating firing data for new and improved artillery guns that arrive in March.

Their work means the guns – which are about the size of a Volkswagen Golf car and can level a house with a single blast – will be able to safely and precisely hit 271 targets along a 45-kilometre mountainous stretch.

When avalanches are imminent, Parks Canada staff call upon one of two gunnery teams that are on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week from December to May. The highway and railway line are closed to traffic, the avalanches are triggered and the clean up begins if snow thunders across the main thoroughfares.

“We’re essentially the only team keeping the transport lines open between Canada and the rest of B.C.,” said Rottluff, who serves with the Victoria regiment’s Nanaimo battery. “Without us, it would cost the government millions of dollars.”

Every day about 4,000 vehicles and 40 trains travel through Rogers Pass.

“I love it up here,” Kachanoski explained. “It’s a change of pace and I’m putting my skills to work.”

Her enthusiasm for keeping people out of harm’s way is tangible even though most motorists and park users don’t realize the military plays such a vital role.

“The public might not know, but we know we’re doing that for them,” said Kachanoski. “It feels good.”

Just Posted

The Victoria Royals will return to the Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena for the first time since the 2019-20 campaign when they open next season against the Vancouver Giants on Oct. 2. (Black Press Media file photo)
Fans expected in the Save-On stands for Victoria Royals’ Oct. 2 home opener

It’ll be the first Western Hockey League action at the arena since March 2020

Police are looking for witnesses and video footage after a crash on June 18. (Photo courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP looking for videos related to Corvette crash

Driver believed to have fled the scene of View Royal crash

The Pat Bay Highway was closed for several hours Monday morning after a drug-impaired driver crashed into two hydro poles. (Black Press Media file photo)
UPDATE: Pat Bay closure caused by drug-impaired driver

Man struck two hydro poles, closing a section of the Pat Bay Monday morning

The City of Victoria is once again offering $50,000 for selected neighbourhood enhancement projects, through its participatory budgeting program. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria neighbourhoods can earn city funding for projects

Up to $50,000 available for initiatives that enhance, enrich neighbourhoods

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for Greater Victoria with unusually high temperatures expected Monday and this coming weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria’s first week of summer will be a scorcher

Special weather statement issued Monday by Environment Canada

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctos urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

By the end of life, the average North American has eaten the weight of a family sedan in sugar. (
FITNESS: Living the sweet life without too much sugar

Simple choices can have a major impact on your health

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Most Read