Power restored to Manitoba communities hit by fires but evacuees still waiting to return

The community of Little Grand Rapids were forced to leave their homes a month ago because of wildfire.
The community of Little Grand Rapids were forced to leave their homes a month ago because of wildfire. Theresa Eischen/Facebook

Power has been restored to Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nation, but evacuees are still waiting to return home.

It’s been more than a month since a massive wildfire sparked, forcing more than 1400 people from the two communities to flee their homes.

At one point the blaze was half the size of Winnipeg.

The evacuees have been staying in Winnipeg hotels ever since.

READ MORE: Growing wildfire forces full evacuation of Little Grand Rapids

According to Manitoba Hydro a sub transmission line had been damaged in the fire.  Crews were able to restore power to the communities Monday, but the Canadian Red Cross said, there’s a lot more work to do before residents can return home.

“It’s just not powers on, people go back,” Shawn Feely, Vice President of the Manitoba Nunavut chapter explained.

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“Before people can go home, it has to be safe.  So we know that the fires are out, it’s not a threat, power has been restored.  It’s been a few weeks that Manitoba Hydro has been fixing the power lines.  Now we have to ensure that the water systems are in place, that the water is safe to drink and to use, we need healthcare people in the community and obviously there’s a lot of clean up to be done.”

READ MORE: New pictures from Little Grand Rapids, Man. show hydro line badly damaged in wildfire

Feely added that fridges and freezers have also been shipped to the communities.  “The people themselves, they’ve been through a lot, it’s been a stressful time, they want to be home and we’re just trying to get them home as soon as possible.”

But it could take a number of days before that happens.

“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions.  We’re working through our checklist.  There’s a lot of people to consult with, and to coordinate with.  If the weather cooperates and everything goes to plan, and water treatment plants are up and running.  It’s going to take a number of days before we can start sending the public back.”