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This article was published 22/5/2018 (1464 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Eleven out-of-control wildfires were burning Tuesday in Manitoba, responsible for torching an estimated 67,000 acres of land and triggering one state of emergency and two evacuations.
The busy season for firefighters continues, due to tinderbox conditions blanketing most of the province. There have been 163 wildfires in 2018, up from the average of 100 for this time of year. The province had six water bombers, 16 helicopters and 101 extra firefighters in action Tuesday.
The situation went from bad to worse in Sapotaweyak Cree Nation.
On Sunday, vulnerable residents were evacuated with the help of the Red Cross, as three wildfires threatened the community. By Tuesday, those three fires had turned into five, forcing remaining residents to evacuate from the small reserve, located 400 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
"It’s like you’re breathing in and it goes to the back of your throat. Now there’s five fires, and you can see it on the lake, the wind’s changing and that fire is coming back. With the air, quality wise, it gets to your throat and is thick to breathe," Sapotaweyak Chief Nelson Genaille said.
The community came close to losing nine homes Tuesday, but so far have been able to fend off the fires, Genaille said, adding 100 residents have stayed behind to help with firefighting efforts.
While speaking with the Free Press on the phone, Genaille said he could hear water bombers at work nearby, but couldn’t see them because of smoke was in the air.
"We had those fires came close to homes -- pretty close, but they managed to contain that fire. The wind is strong and with the big fire there’s embers flying around. You’ve got to be on high alert all the time," he said.
Meanwhile, nearly 25,000 acres burned between the communities of Ashern and Mulvihill, sparking a state of emergency in the RM of Grahamdale.
Three separate fires are burning in the area, with the largest – spanning 21,000 acres – only six km from Ashern, a small Interlake town located 180 km northwest of Winnipeg.
The communities remain on evacuation alert and three schools – Ashern Early Years School, Ashern Central School and Alf Cuthbert School in Moosehorn – were closed Tuesday.
An RM of Grahamdale spokeswoman said council members went door-to-door, letting residents know they need to be ready to leave their homes on two-hours notice, should the situation get worse.
On Monday night, vulnerable community members from Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation, also located in the Interlake region, were relocated to Winnipeg with the help of the Red Cross. However, as of Tuesday, residents have been told it is safe to return home.
Another large fire, reportedly five-km wide and spanning 17,000 acres, is burning east of Little Grand Rapids First Nation, located 270 km northeast of Winnipeg near the Manitoba-Ontario border.
A Red Cross spokesman said there have been no evacuation orders for Little Grand Rapids, but the organization remains on high alert throughout the province.
Fire and travel restrictions remain in place for parts of south, central and western portions of the province.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.