Hundreds forced from homes due to forest fires

Hundreds forced from homes due to forest fires

23 July 2012

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Canada –  More than 800 people from four northern Manitoba First Nations have been flown to Winnipeg and Brandon due to forest fires near their home communities.

Officials said people deemed the most vulnerable, such as those with asthma and other breathing conditions, were flown out first, while others may follow if the fire situation gets worse.

“We didn’t have anybody who was acutely distressed from smoke inhalation but we did have folks with runny eyes, coughing, sore throats, which is a normal effect from being involved with the forest fires,” said Janice Lowe from the Brandon Regional Health Authority.

The Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters is looking after the evacuations and asked both Brandon and Winnipeg to host the evacuees, due to the large number.

“This is the largest evacuation that we’ve handled in recent times,” said Brian Kayes from the City of Brandon.

On Monday, the province said 77 forest fires are burning in Manitoba. As of July 20, more than 360 firefighters were battling the blazes, with 12 water bombers and 31 helicopters being used.

Fires are currently burning in northeastern and western, central and eastern parts of Manitoba, said officials. The largest numbers of fires are currently burning in the northeastern part of Manitoba.

Officials from the Manitoba Association of Native Firefighters said people had to leave Red Sucker Lake First Nation, Wasagamack First Nation, St. Theresa Point First Nation and Garden Hill First Nation.

They said it’s tough to determine how long people could be out of their homes, due to the unpredictable nature of forest fires. They said, however, people should be prepared to be out of their homes for approximately three to seven days.

Community members said homes are not currently at risk of burning. Some evacuees, however, said leaving was still difficult.

“Some people don’t want to go because they don’t want to leave their homes,” said Eric Wood from Garden Hill Public Health.

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