Wildfires take root in northwest Manitoba


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After extreme precipitation and heat, Manitoba’s next 2022 weather challenge may be fire season.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/07/2022 (313 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After extreme precipitation and heat, Manitoba’s next 2022 weather challenge may be fire season.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 59 wildfires burning in the province, with six starting in the previous 24 hours.

According to annual reports from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre Inc., Manitoba logged a total of 460 wildfires in 2021, after experiencing a rare drop to 149 in 2020. (Manitoba has a 20-year average of 437, the group says.)

DHANA RAJ / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A wildfire is visible from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in northwestern Manitoba over the weekend.

Rain has helped in the southern part of the province thus far this season, but the northwest quadrant is the main area of concern, with new fires starting and heavy smoke obstructing suppression efforts, provincial officials said.

“Unfortunately, we’re not seeing rain in the right places at this point,” a spokesperson for the Manitoba Wildfire Service said Tuesday.

“We are hoping for some increased precipitation within that northwest quadrant but, at this point, we’re seeing that there will be light precipitation within those areas. We will continue to monitor the weather day to day.”

The largest wildland fire currently burning is in the vicinity of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, with residents being forced to leave their homes in the community more than 800 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

The fire, less than one km west of the community, is estimated to be 56,000 acres in size and has affected the ability of water bombers to take action, according to the most recent provincial bulletin.

The Canadian Red Cross estimates some 2,000 people have been evacuated from the northwest Manitoba First Nation, as there are air quality concerns and reduced visibility due to smoke.

“As of yesterday, we had about 1,800 people in hotel rooms in Winnipeg, Thompson, Brandon and The Pas, but we also know there are people who are staying with friends and family,” Jason Small of the Canadian Red Cross said Tuesday.

Those staying in hotels will continue to receive support until the chief and council determine it’s safe to return, due to an agreement between the Red Cross and Indigenous Services Canada.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Volunteers help set up 600 cots at Axworthy Health and RecPlex at the University of Winnipeg in preparation for the potential arrival of wildfire evacuees from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation.

Another fire is burning some eight km northeast of Pukatawagan (Mathias Colomb), where a 7,500-acre blaze is within four km of hydro line and railway access. It is not considered to be an immediate threat to the community or infrastructure at this time and continues to be monitored, the province said.

Other wildfires in the province include: Burntwood Lake, where three fires have joined into one 37,000-acre blaze; The Pas, which has a 420-acre fire being contained 40 km south of the town; and South Indian Lake, where a 940-acre fire is 15 km southeast of the community.

RCMP officers remain at Mathias Colomb and continue to do regular patrols to ensure the community remains secure.

The Manitoba Wildfire Service said it will continue to post updates and fire bulletins every few days, as information changes.


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