Fires rage across Manitoba, force evacuations

Fires rage across Manitoba, force evacuations   

07 October 2011

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Canada — People are being forced from their homes due to grass fires burning out of control in southern Manitoba.

About 20 homes — 50 people — have been evacuated in the community of Stuartburn, about 90 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

“The town is divided by a highway and so everybody on the south side of the highway has been evacuated because the fire’s getting pretty close to town,” said Angela Smook, who lives in the community of about 1,600.

“I’m on the north side of the highway but I’ve just watched all my neighbours leave.”

There are crews from 12 fire services working in the area, according to provincial officials.

Four water bombers are also attacking the flames.

“Every fire resource they can manage, they’ve got,” said Smook.

Highway 201 near Highway 59 is closed as a result.

Dave Schafer, Manitoba’s acting fire commissioner, said about 75 firefighters from at least eight departments in that region of the province have been working non-stop through the night.

“The last report I got was no property loss although it’s been a valiant effort on their behalf.

“They have had some close calls but …seem to be on top of it.”

Fires are also burning in three other areas of the province: the Interlake, Riding Mountain National Park in western Manitoba, and two in eastern Manitoba, north Nopiming Provincial Park near Bissett.

Eight helicopters, four waterbombers and nearly 100 ground crew are fighting the Bisset-area blazes, which have consumed about 18,000 hectares.

Manitoba Conservation officials say the hot, dry fall and strong winds in the past few days have pushed the fire danger to extreme in some parts of the province.

“People gotta be very vigilant. It is critical out there now,” said Schafer.

“They gotta watch everything they do — that they are not being part of the problem and causing these fires.”

Evacuation alert near Riding Mountain

In Riding Mountain National Park, the fire is in McFadden Valley. Park officials said the fire started in a site where a controlled burn had previously been extinguished.

Highway 19 is closed at Riding Mountain National Park. Parks Canada fire specialists are working to extinguish the fire and setting up fireguards along the park boundary to protect neighbours and their property.

Fire crews, helicopters and bulldozers are on site to control the blaze, said park spokesperson Cate Watrous.

Firefighting crews from other parks have also been called in to assist.

As a precaution, an evacuation alert has been put in place by the Rural Municipality of Clanwilliam, which will notify landowners of any further necessary actions.

The following areas have been closed to the public: south escarpment trails, Kinosao Trail, Cowan Lake Trail, Brûlé Trail, Muskrat Lake Trail, Grey Owl Trail, Arrowhead Trail, Lake Katherine Road, Rolling River Road, and all the trails north of Highway 19 and Highway 10.

Forest fire in Bisset

Over in Bissett, Highway 304 east of the town and west of Wallace Lake has been shut down because of the heavy smoke and flames crossing the highway.

The forest fires are about 10 kilometres from Bissett. They were ignited Tuesday evening by a lightning strike, according to provincial officials.

At this point, there are no people or private property being threatened, officials said.

Crews were also battling a blaze near La Broquerie, southeast of Winnipeg, until they brought it under control around 3 a.m. Friday.

And a fire in northern Minnesota is licking at the Manitoba border but crews from the U.S. are working on that one.

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