Volatile forest fire racing toward Manitoba town

     Volatile forest fire racing toward Manitoba town

29 May 2008

published by www.ctv.ca

 Canada — Sherridon in northern Manitoba and could reach the town today, provincial emergency management officials said Thursday afternoon.

The fire, one of 12 that began in the province on Wednesday, is a few kilometres from the community of about 500 people.

Sherridon was evacuated Wednesday night after the mayor worried the single road into the community, located northeast of Flin Flon, could be rendered impassable by the fire.

Firefighters are currently setting up sprinklers in Sherridon to protect homes and businesses, said Tom Mirus, head of fire prevention for Manitoba’s Conservation Department.

On the one-to-six scale used to rank forest fires, the fire near Sherridon is being classified as a “rank six.” Firefighters have had difficulty getting close enough to slow it down.

Plans are underway to conduct a controlled burn before the fire gets too close to town, Mirus said during a conference call with the press on Thursday.

“If we get an opportunity we’ll try to burn right in front of the fire and take away the fuel,” he said.

Such a measure would eliminate dry brush from the designated area, effectively creating a non-flammable buffer zone between the fire and the community.

Mirus’ department believes all of Wednesday’s fires were caused by humans.

Residents of Norway House and St. Theresa Point were also evacuated Wednesday as fires blazed throughout the region, leading to smoke inhalation concerns in some areas.

A fire surrounding Norway House, a Cree community, forced up to 1,200 people from the surrounding area into the centre of the sprawling reserve, Chief Marcel Balfour told The Canadian Press.

It also led to the evacuation of the reserve’s hospital, which sent its patients to nearby Cross Lake.

Balfour said the fire has since been contained and he hopes residents will be able to return on Thursday.

More than 100 people were sent to Winnipeg from St. Theresa Point due to concerns the heavy smoke there could cause health problems.

Winnipeg Transit buses were waiting at the airport to pick up the evacuees, who were temporarily housed in hotels.

Authorities said the evacuations went smoothly as many residents had faced a similar process during fires five years ago.

The province has a ban on open fires running from April 1 to Nov. 15. Those who have obtained a permit or made a fire in an approved firepit (such as those in provincial parks) are exempt from the ban.

Manitoba’s recent hot and dry weather is contributing to the risk of fires across the province. Authorities are urging residents to exercise caution when burning anything.

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