Grass fires rage across southern Manitoba, destroying buildings, businesses

Grass fires rage across southern Manitoba, destroying buildings, businesses

01 May 2012

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Canada — Fire crews in southern Manitoba were run ragged last night after a series of grass fires that spread to homes and businesses.

Thirty fire departments battled a number of fires that raged from the afternoon into the evening.

So far fire authorities confirm there have been no injuries, but the damage has been extensive.

In Selkirk a metal processing plant sent toxic fumes into the air.

Smoke from the blaze could be seen as far as Winnipeg, and thick, black smoke blanketed the sky in Selkirk.

Officials said the fire started on the grass and made its way to Mandak Metal Processors, burning remainders of foam and fibers from scrap cars and other materials in the yard.

“There were propane tanks in that field being set off by the fire and you’d see the explosion,” said witness Owen Anderson. “You’d see the smoke surrounding them and all the shockwaves.”

The fire was so intense it first had to be attacked from the air.

“The water air strike team was sent from Winnipeg. They sent out a bird dog and two tankers sent to assist the department in controlling the blaze,” said Dave Singleton of the Office of the Fire Commissioner.

The tankers helped “knock down” the fire so that firefighters on the ground could get near it, Singleton said.

The job was physically taxing with crews bearing the burden of heavy gear and hose lines on the steep inclined berm.

Officials said there was no immediate threat of toxic fumes to people in the area. Wind conditions sent the smoke up, rather than dispersing it into the town, fire officials said.

Katherine Anderson lives near by and said she’s concerned but happy the crews got the fire under control.

“Thankfully it’s going away from our houses because it’s not wood smoke. That’s chemical smoke because their berm is on fire. That’s chemical stuff going in the air,” Anderson said.

The blaze is now under control and the cause is still under investigation.

Fire destroys home in Anola

East of the city near Anola a home was destroyed by flames after a grass fire burned out of control.

The grass fire consumed a barn and later a house.

Springfield fire crews were busy trying to contain the fire late Saturday afternoon before it spread to grain elevators and other buildings in the area.

The home owners were in the city at the time of the blaze and got a call from their security company.

Firefighters said hydro lines were done in the area, which prevent them from putting it out before it damaged the property.

“The cause we haven’t determined yet. With the wind it spread rapidly through the bush and the grass,” said Deputy Fire Chief Chris Lipkowich.

The damage from the blaze is estimated at $200,000.

Fire on Roblin Boulevard causes $300,000 worth of damage

Closer to the city, flames destroyed an out-building in the rear of a residence in the 7000 block of Roblin Boulevard.

The fire then moved to a neighbouring property and threatened an auto auction business.

Headingly fire crews were on scene around 6 p.m. Saturday to fight the fire. Officials say in total, four sheds and huts were damaged by the blaze.

Thick smoke blanketed the highways in the area, and RCMP had to direct traffic.

There were no reported injuries from the fire, but damage was extensive. The fire caused about $300,000 worth of damage.

The cause is currently under investigation.

Other fires across the province

Crews also attended a blaze in the RM of Springfield around 8 p.m. Saturday. Firefighters were called to the area of Symington Road and Navin Road.

The cause and damage estimate from the blaze are not yet known.

Office of the Fire Commissioner investigators also extinguished a blaze at Loewen Windows in Steinbach and another in Oakbank that burnt a 100-year-old barn.

Several fire departments also attended a large grass fire near Richer.

In addition, the province stepped in to help the RM of Siglunes near Ashern.

The Office of the Fire Commissioner reminded residents to check for burn bans in their municipalities and always monitor wind and ground conditions before burning anything.

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