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This article was published 13/5/2012 (3538 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The RM of Piney declared a state of emergency Sunday to give authorities the power to close roads in the wake of two days of wildfires that consumed 3,000 hectares of forest over the weekend in the Sandilands Provincial Park. The next step, an evacuation order, could come as early as the morning.
Councillor Donald Winnicky said the reeve and council declared the state of emergency at at 4 p.m. Sunday.
"It means we're implementing a travel ban and police are on the roads, all the roads leading into the fire. Anybody travelling there will be turned back," said Winnicky.
The RM will consider evacuation at a meeting Monday at 8:30 a.m.
Also in the morning, the RM expects to ask Premier Greg Selinger to throw the weight of the province into a travel ban across the southeast corner of Manitoba.
"We're going to ask the premier to implement a travel ban in the east side of the province, or the southeast corner of it. That way, conservation officers can chase people out of the back country," said Winnicky.
Authorities are nervous because weather forecasts call for winds to shift. Up to now, winds from the west pushed tongues of fire east out of the range of small towns. Those winds are shifting north overnight, which will drive the fire back south.
"It could make a circle," said Winnicky, explaining a ring of fire could threaten lives and homes in the RM of about 1,700 people
Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship had six water bombers, three bulldozers, three tanker planes, four helicopters, and more than 35 firefighters fighting to beat back the flames.
The province identified the big fires as located northeast of Carrick and southeast of Woodridge, closer to the Minnesota border than to the Trans-Canada Highway.
"Any time you get fire in that area, it's a homogenous stand of pines, once it gets going, it's hard to put out," said Manitoba Conservation forest fire chief Gary Friesen.
The combination of resinous pines, dry conditions and a hot wind ignited the land.
There were no evacuations and no injuries reported over the weekend.
The public was warned to use extreme caution in the area, which is famous for drawing hundreds of all-terrain vehicles to its flat sandy trails.
"I encourage everyone to be safe when they're travelling out of doors," said Friesen.
At the same time, RCMP in Lac du Bonnet and Pinawa redirected traffic off Highway 211, at the junction of Hwy 11, after a separate fire was reported on a bridge across the Winnipeg River. Poor visiblity from smoke caused the closure of a section of Hwy 211, leading to Pinawa, Conservation and RCMP said.
Pinawa resident Josh Powaskchuk said by early evening bush fires on either side of a bridge that links Hwy 211 to Pinawa were largely out.
The province is using bulldozers on the ground and water bombers in the air to combat wildfires blazing in bush country east of Steinbach, a Conservation spokesman said Sunday.
Two fires are burning in the area northeast of Carrick and southeast of Wood Ridge. The most dangerous one covers 1,300 hectares of forest and grassland. A smaller fire has sprung up nearby.
High winds and low humidity are fueling the spread of flames and provincial conservation officials are urging the public in the area to exercise extreme caution to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the fire.
"Municipal fire crews continue to be supported by over 30 forest fire fighters from Manitoba Conservation-Water Stewardshipt along with three bulldozers to cut fire lines, and substantial air resources; five water bombers and three helicopters and later today a single engine air tanker group," the spokesman said.
No homes in the area are threatened and no evacuations are ordered.
No official cause for the fires have been determined but the province has a fire investigator on the case, looking into the cause and origin of it.
Dry weather and high winds in southern Manitoba this spring have contributed to a number of dangerous grass fires.