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Growing wildfire forces full evacuation of Little Grand Rapids

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WATCH: Red Cross got 60 people out Tuesday before heavy smoke from the wildfire made it unsafe for flights to continue. The rest were being evacuated Wednesday. Global's Nikki Jhutti reports. – May 23, 2018

The Canadian Red Cross has ordered the full evacuation of Little Grand Rapids, Man. because of a growing wildfire.

The fly in, fly out First Nation community is about 260 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Only 60 people were able to evacuate Tuesday, Red Cross communication manager Jason Small said.

Heavy smoke from the wildfire made it unsafe for flights to continue.

READ MORE: Hundreds flee as forest fire rages near Sapotaweyak Cree Nation

The remaining residents were brought to Little Grand Rapids First Nation school where a shelter was set up. The fire burning north of the community was approximately 20,000 hectares.

The Red Cross was working to evacuate the rest of the community Wednesday. According to Small a total of 1,100 people were being flown to Winnipeg.

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Emergency crews were on standby at the airport and provided care for the most vulnerable evacuees, while a bus transported others to their temporary homes at local hotels.

 

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The community of Little Grand Rapids have been forced to leave their homes because of a growing wildfire. Provided
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The community of Little Grand Rapids have been forced to leave their homes because of a growing wildfire. Theresa Eischen/Facebook
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The community of Little Grand Rapids have been forced to leave their homes because of a growing wildfire. Theresa Eischen/Facebook
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The community of Little Grand Rapids have been forced to leave their homes because of a growing wildfire. Theresa Eischen / Facebook
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The community of Little Grand Rapids have been forced to leave their homes because of a growing wildfire. Theresa Eischen/Facebook
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The community of Little Grand Rapids have been forced to leave their homes because of a growing wildfire. Theresa Eischen/Facebook
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The community of Little Grand Rapids have been forced to leave their homes because of a growing wildfire. Theresa Eischen/Facebook

READ MORE: Clean-up continues in Brandon after devastating weekend fire

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Selena Leveque and Bertha Bushie arrived in Winnipeg Wednesday morning.

Although they’re safe, both said they’re fearful for their community.

“There’s newborn babies out there still, I’m scared and I’m worried right now,” Leveque said.

“I’m like really worried about the people out there right now, because there’s elders there too,” Bushie added.

Community leaders question why the response took so long.

“At this time I guess it’s a rescue mission not an evacuation,” Raymond Keeper, Chief of Little Grand Rapids said.

“We did try to start an evacuation a couple days ago and the resources told us they had the fire under control,” Keeper added.

“We knew the conditions on the ground, we knew that there was a potential for the wind to shift, they could have made a decision that would have protected the safety of the community but instead they decided to wait,” Jerry Daniels, Grand Chief, Southern Chief’s Organization Inc. said.

A provincial spokesperson told Global News it did call the Chief and several council members on Monday but said staff were not able to reach anyone.

On Tuesday, the Chief contacted the Red Cross to start flying people out.

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The Red Cross is reminding people that it does not accept donations of any items, but those looking to help evacuees should reach out to community groups in their area.  It also stresses that people should not take donations to any hotels where evacuees are staying.

Anyone wanting to make a donation to help the Red Cross prepare for future disasters can go to redcross.ca or call 1-800-418-1111.

READ MORE: Northern Manitoba fire situation flares, southern areas under control

Community leaders estimate eleven homes have been destroyed by the flames.

The wildfire has moved to within five kilometres of Pauingassi First Nation.  An evacuation order has also been issued for the nearby community.

As of Wednesday, the total number of fires in Manitoba was 166.  The average for this time of year is 103.

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