July 8, 2019 3:36 pm
Updated: July 8, 2019 4:37 pm

Crews from Saskatchewan, Quebec help in Manitoba wildfire fight

Fires burn in Little Grand Rapids, Man., as shown in a 2018 Government of Manitoba handout photo. Three people have been charged with arson for allegedly starting a wildfire in east-central Manitoba that forced 2,000 people from their homes last May. Residents of the fly-in Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nations were evacuated for more than a month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Government of Manitoba MANDATORY CREDIT

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Firefighters continue to battle a wildfire that forced the evacuation of residents from two northern Manitoba communities over the weekend.

Residents from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nation began arriving in Winnipeg Sunday after a nearby wildfire brought heavy smoke into the communities.

So far only “Priority 1” residents, which include the elderly, babies and those with chronic respiratory problems, have had to leave the communities.

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Officials from the Canadian Red Cross said 122 residents from Little Grand Rapids had come to Winnipeg by Monday afternoon, and as many as 60 were expected to arrive from Pauingassi by the end of the day.

Dave Schafer, director of the Manitoba Wildfire Program, says the fire, burning roughly 17 kilometres west of Little Grand Rapids, is the most troublesome one currently burning in the province.

“We’ve got a number of resources working on it,” he told 680CJOB Monday morning.

READ MORE: Manitoba Red Cross evacuating residents from 2 First Nations due to wildfire smoke

The fire is one of 23 active wildfires burning across the province as of noon Monday.

The province says 64 firefighters from Saskatchewan and Quebec arrived in Manitoba Friday to help battle the fires, with provincial crews focusing their efforts on the fire near Little Grand Rapids, and another near Red Sucker Lake.

The main areas of concerns continue to be Lake Winnipeg East, Gods Lake and Island Lake, according to the province’s latest fire update.

The province says three fires continue to burn in remote areas east of Lake Winnipeg, and two large fires continue to burn in a remote area between the communities of Poplar River and Island Lake.

Those fires are not threatening any communities.

A large wildfire in northwest Ontario crossed over into the province Friday and is burning in a remote area along the Manitoba border, near the Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park, leaving travel in the park not recommended, said Schafer.

Schafer said officials are hoping for help fighting the fires from the skies, with rain expected over parts of the province starting Monday, but he adds lightning strikes are a concern.

The majority of the fires currently burning were started by lightning, he said.

READ MORE: Smoke from forest fires causing poor air quality in southeastern Manitoba

“We also recognize with thunderstorms, there comes additional lighting and the possibility of new fire starts that may occur,” he said.

“But we’ll take whatever we can get.”

Schafer said the smoky conditions seen in Winnipeg Saturday blew over the city from the fires burning in eastern Manitoba as well as northwest Ontario.

While winds shifting to the south improved conditions in Winnipeg later in the weekend, Schafer said communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg are likely to continue to experience smoke conditions based on wind direction.

So far there have been 184 wildfires reported in Manitoba this year.

RELATED VIDEO: Northeastern Manitoba skies glow red from wildfires

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