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This article was published 12/5/2016 (1220 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
FALCON LAKE — Anxious residents of the wildfire-stricken region along the Manitoba-Ontario border sought reassurance Thursday night the worst was over.
Fire officials from Manitoba and Ontario were on hand at the Whiteshell Community Club to update residents on the fire, which started north of Caddy Lake late last week and spread into Whiteshell Provincial Park and into northwestern Ontario.
It was a packed house as officials from the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario outlined their efforts to control the wildfires that have raged in the area.
"It is fair to say the worst is likely over," said Ian Staley, a fire behavioural analyst with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario.
However, Staley said it will be weeks before the fire is extinguished and crews can leave the Whiteshell area.
Officials told residents evacuation orders will be lifted when they can assure the safety of residents and crews. Evacuation protocols will be headed by the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba, as well as the Ontario Provincial Police.
A date for when evacuees can return was not given Thursday.
'It is fair to say the worst is likely over' — Ian Staley, fire behavioural analyst with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario
A weather specialist explained how weather will affect the fire. An official explained how residents will eventually be able to return to their homes.
The interior of the fire is likely to continue to smoulder, with minor flare-ups possible, but Staley said thanks to some precipitation and a drop in temperature, the fire is unlikely to grow.
"Given the suppression efforts thus far, it is probably not going to escape the perimeter," Staley said.
The suppression efforts for the Beresford fire include water bombers and spotter aircraft that were brought in from other provinces and Minnesota, as well as crews on the ground from as far away as Nova Scotia, working to establish hose lines along the perimeter.
The Northwest Territories has sent two water bombers and a spotter aircraft to help fight the two wildfires, and 20 firefighters from Nova Scotia are to arrive today. Ontario has established a base camp in the parking lot on the beach in Falcon Lake.
District fire rangers Justin Moose and Earl Nice arrived in the Whiteshell from northern Manitoba Saturday and immediately went to work installing sprinklers. Three days ago, they found themselves face to face with the flames as they installed sprinklers in the Ophir, Man., area. As they stood in front of a cabin, their five-person crew, equipped with charged hoses, was all that stood between the cabin and the oncoming flames.
"We were right in the front line," said Moose. "The fire was coming."
But it wasn’t a time to panic for either Moose or Nice, who have both been battling fires for decades.
"It was just like any other fire. We’ve been doing this for years," said Nice.
"(The flames) came right up to the building, so we had to put it out right there."
The sprinklers are installed around cabins, and as Moose describes it, each sprinkler "directs the fire other places. It pretty much makes the fire go around it."
More than 300 sprinklers have been installed.
It was a race against time for the crew as they ran from cabin to cabin in the Ophir rail line area around the communities of Nora and Florence lakes installing sprinklers as the flames moved in behind them.
"And they worked," said Moose, proudly stating they didn’t lose a single cabin.
Wet and cool conditions also helped crews in the Beresford Lake area, which did not grow in size into Thursday.
The wildfire near the popular Caddy Lake resort area has reached the point at which South Cross and North Cross lakes connect via a train tunnel. The connection is a key point for canoe trips heading north into a series of more remote lakes. Firefighting crews have kept hydro lines intact.
The wildfire program of Manitoba Sustainable Development advises although there has been minimal rain in eastern Manitoba, the moist, cool conditions are helping fires crews make progress on the wildfires near Beresford and Caddy lakes.
There have been no new evacuation orders for several days.
The east shore of Caddy Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park is closed until further notice, and evacuation orders remain in effect.
Highway 312 from one kilometre east of Highway 44 (Big Island turnoff) to the Ontario border remained closed Thursday. The road continues into Ontario for several kilometres before ending at the community of Ingolf, one of the first places to be evacuated, primarily because it is a docking area for water-access cottages.
Thirty-five firefighters from northern Manitoba were deployed to fight that fire Thursday.
The mandatory evacuation of the Beresford cottage subdivision in Nopiming continued. The Beresford and Wallace lake campgrounds will be closed until conditions improve.
An evacuation order remained in effect for Wallace Lake, which affects 61 cottages and one lodge. Officials are monitoring conditions at Long Lake closely.
Travel restrictions remain in place in eastern Manitoba, including the Mars Hill Wildlife Management area. Motorized backcountry travel is prohibited between noon and 7 p.m. in those areas. Any travel outside these times must be under the authority of a travel permit issued by a conservation officer.
In Whiteshell Provincial Park, the Hunt Lake, Mantario and McGillivray Falls hiking trails are closed until conditions improve.
All burning permits are cancelled, and no new permits will be issued for eastern Manitoba.
Updated on Friday, May 13, 2016 at 9:56 AM CDT: Corrects typo
10:47 AM: Clarification of suppression efforts for Beresford fire.