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Rain aids firefighting efforts in Whiteshell, Nopiming

Ground crews to supplement water bombers

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/5/2016 (1347 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Provincial officials said Thursday morning that Wednesday’s rain helped efforts at both Caddy Lake and Beresford Lake.

The Northwest Territories has sent two water bombers and a spotter aircraft to help fight the two wildfires, and 20 firefighters from Nova Scotia will arrive Friday.

The wildfire near the popular Caddy Lake resort area has hit the point where South Cross and North Cross lakes connect by a train tunnel.


The wildfire near the popular Caddy Lake resort area has hit the point where South Cross and North Cross lakes connect by a train tunnel.

Firefighting crews have kept Hydro lines intact, but an unoccupied trapper’s cabin on North Cross Lake has been lost.

Hundreds of firefighters poured into Whiteshell Provincial Park and northwestern Ontario to battle a wildfire that’s consumed 14,400 hectares and keeps growing.

The additional firefighters will work on the ground, supplementing the water bombers that have fought the fires so far. Until Wednesday, it had been too hot and dry for crews on the ground, but changing weather conditions allowed the movement to a ground attack.

As of Wednesday, no one had been hurt and only a few sheds had been lost.

Manitoba and Ontario fire officials will hold an information session tonight at 7 p.m. at the Whiteshell Community Centre in Falcon Lake to update everyone affected by the almost 6,000-hectare wildfire near Caddy Lake.

People unable to attend can call 204-345-1444 for information.

The fire is within a kilometre of Caddy Lake, but it’s been that close for a couple of days without getting any nearer, said Gary Friesen, manager of wildfire programs for Manitoba.

"It’s a favourable weather situation right now — (9620 acres) of that are in Manitoba," Friesen said. "What rain we did have allowed us to get crews in.

"We have firefighters coming from the north by busloads. These are emergency firefighters the department hires and certifies" for just such situations, Friesen said. "We have firefighters coming from all over Ontario."

Friesen said the wind has pushed the fire to the north. The forecast is for much cooler temperatures, which will help, he said, pointing out that what helps Manitoba has just the opposite effect in Ontario.

"Ideally, we’d like to get a good soaking. The patterns will turn the winds back to the northwest," he said. Water bombers are working non-stop in daylight, but "the on-ground suppression puts the fire out."

"We had some Minnesota tankers come up from Bemidji" to protect Hydro lines, Friesen said, and crews are trying to stop the flames from jumping the main rail lines. "We have wildfire crews working with crews from CN and CP (railways)," he said.

The fire has reached the point at which South Cross and North Cross lakes connect by a tunnel beneath the rail line.

"It is pretty close to the shore there," Friesen said.

There were no further evacuations Wednesday. Friesen said cottages and other buildings continue to be heavily soaked by sprinklers, and while he said nothing is guaranteed given winds and volatile conditions, he hoped Caddy Lake and West Hawk Lake shorelines would not be lost.

Meanwhile, Friesen said, a skeleton crew is maintaining the Manitoba provincial fish hatchery on Highway 312, which has been closed for several days. It is just inside the border with Ontario and about two kilometres from the nearest cottages on Caddy Lake.

"The hatchery itself has a sprinkler system set up. They’re in a maintenance mode," Friesen said.

Premier Brian Pallister said the province is committed to improving the provision of timely information to cottagers and residents affected by the wildfires.

"The information-flow issues are, I’m told, being addressed. I think that’s really important," he said.

Residents and cottagers fear for their properties, and that’s understandable, Pallister said.

"They have enough to worry about. They shouldn’t have to worry about getting accurate information in a timely manner," he said.

Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox, who is in charge of the province’s response to the fires, said her department has addressed the need for better communications, appointing a point person to provide information. She couldn’t immediately name the departmental contact, but said her staff would provide that information to the media.

Asked if she was optimistic the fires could soon be brought under control, Cox said the situation is continually changing, depending on temperature, wind speed and wind direction.

— files by Bill Redekop and Larry Kusch



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Updated on Thursday, May 12, 2016 at 6:41 AM CDT: Adds photo

9:19 AM: Updates with fire conditions Thursday morning, adds details on informational meeting

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