Fires spark evac­u­a­tion or­der for three north­ern Man­i­toba First Na­tions

Truro Daily News - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

WASAGAMACK, MAN.

A large for­est fire burn­ing at the edge of a re­mote north­ern Man­i­toba Indige­nous community has forced 2,000 res­i­dents to pile into boats and take a 20-minute ride in the dark­ness to a nearby re­serve with an airstrip.

“Prob­a­bly mid­night, we were still trans­port­ing by boat,” Chief Alex McDougall of Wasagamack First Na­tion said Wed­nes­day.

“Those boats that were equipped with nav­i­ga­tion lights were go­ing back and forth, fer­ry­ing the evac­uees.”

One fire came within me­tres of some homes on the edge of Wasagamack and dam­aged roofs Tues­day af­ter­noon be­fore the winds changed.

Thick smoke blan­keted the community and also prompted par­tial evac­u­a­tions in nearby St. Theresa Point and Gar­den Hill. The Red Cross said res­i­dents with health con­cerns in those com­mu­ni­ties were flown south to Win­nipeg and Bran­don.

In all, some 3,700 peo­ple were be­ing moved out of the re­gion 600 kilo­me­tres north of Win­nipeg.

There is no run­ning wa­ter in the sec­tion of Wasagamack clos­est to the fire. Res­i­dents get wa­ter de­liv­ered by truck. Heavy equip­ment was moved into place to cre­ate a buf­fer from the fire.

“We’ve been very for­tu­nate that the wind changed like it did (Tues­day evening). Oth­er­wise we would have had our community en­gulfed in flames,” McDougall said.

Wasagamack has no airstrip, so peo­ple had to travel by wa­ter across Is­land Lake to St. Theresa Point and then be flown south.

A Red Cross spokesman said about 100 peo­ple had ar­rived in Win­nipeg and Bran­don by Wed­nes­day morn­ing and would be put up in ho­tels, de­pend­ing on avail­abil­ity.

Judy Klassen, the leg­is­la­ture mem­ber who rep­re­sents the area, said a few dozen peo­ple were to re­main in Wasagamack to fight the fire and over­see the emer­gency re­sponse.

McDougall said the wind Wed­nes­day was still blow­ing away from the community and the fire had not ad­vanced any closer.

“We’re con­tin­u­ing to mon­i­tor that area, so hope­fully the wind will con­tinue to co-op­er­ate.”

CP vIA juDy klASSEN

Man­i­toba MLA Judy Klassen pro­vided this im­age show­ing a large for­est fire seen burn­ing near Wasagamack First Na­tion in north­ern Man­i­toba on Tues­day. The Red Cross is work­ing to carry out the evac­u­a­tion of three north­ern Man­i­toba com­mu­ni­ties threat­ened by nearby for­est fires.

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