About a hundred Poplar River First Nation residents have been evacuated due to threatening smoke from a wildfire in the area, the Canadian Red Cross reported Friday.
Flights from the area began Thursday, with stopovers in Norway House on the way to Winnipeg, are expected to last as long as smoke lingers in the community of about 1,200, Red Cross spokesman Jason Small said. Evacuees are reported to be staying in Winnipeg hotels.
"We've flown out 125 so far and we're doing more. By the time we're done, it will depend on the numbers of escorts who come out...but maybe another 350," Small said.
Evacuees include escorts accompanying the chronically ill, the elderly and children.
Provincial forest fighting crews are monitoring the small 60-hectare wildfire, located about 11 kilometres south of the remote northern First Nation.
This is only the second time the Red Cross has been deployed this summer to evacuate people in the path of wildfires in Manitoba.
Right now the Poplar River wildfire not considered a threat to property, or hydro lines, a provincial spokesman said.
Poplar River is located about 400 kilometres north of Winnipeg on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.
Unlike other areas of the country, such as central British Columbia where thounsands have been displaced due to wildfires, Manitoba has seen a light fire season.
Manitoba sees an average of 544 wildfires annually. So far this year, there were 325 as of Thursday with three listed as out of control as of Friday morning.
But, in a warning of risks to come, 10 fires sparked up overnight.
That's a number that makes the province's conservation and wildfire officers sit up and take notice.
"Since the beginning of August, that's when we've had activity accelerate," said Gary Friesen, Manitoba's wildfire program manager with Sustainable Development.
Up until now, much of the north has been protected by a layer of wet saturated soil, left over from a heavy rainfalls last falll and a thick blanket of winter snowfall. All that moisture however is pretty much dried up and lightning strikes have stoked fires in the north.
Friesen said the province is closely monitoring the north as a result.
"Now that August has rolled around, there are a lot of areas that aren't getting enough rain. . . Lightning is causing us a lot of fires and there's no relief in sight except for next week when they're forecasting some rain," Friesen said.
The province is now advising campers, hikers and others venturing out in the bush to practice fire safety guidelines.
That includes starting fires only in approved pits in provincial parks, using camp stoves whenever possible, keeping all terrain vehicles to designated trails and carrying an axe, a shovel and a fire extinguisher on board. The province also advises ATVers to stop frequently and check for hot spot debris, and remove and make sure it isn't smoldering.