Communities are standing by for potential evacuations and others have declared a state of emergency as wildfires rage across Manitoba.
The province says the RM of North Cypress and the Town of Carberry have declared local states of emergency due to a fire near CFB Shilo.
Some precautionary evacuations have already taken place, while further north, the community of Homebrook has the potential to be evacuated after a fire there pushed through a perimeter.
A massive blaze near Gypsumville has reached nearly 700 square km, while two fires merged into one near Lake St. Martin First Nation, leaving an area of land nearly 100 square km in size consumed by flames.
Assistant Deputy Conservation Minister Blair McTavish told 680 CJOB anything south of the 53rd parallel is causing problems right now.
“Basically from the U.S. border right up to north of Grand Rapids into Easterville area, up to almost The Pas — right from the Ontario border to Saskatchewan, it’s all extremely dry,” McTavish said.
“We have a number of fires of concern right now, mainly on the west side of the province.”
Parts of Highway 5, Highway 6 and Provincial Road 307 are now closed, and Manitoba RCMP are on scene blocking roads and helping keep people out of danger zones.
“First and foremost (our role) is to pitch in wherever we can, but our main role is to assist with blocking roads as well as evacuations, so we’ll go door-to-door if necessary and have people evacuated from the area for their safety,” said RCMP spokesperson Tara Seel.
“When we’re on-scene, we’ll make sure people are out of harm’s way and we’ll set up those roadblocks, enforce those roadblocks … we just want to evacuate people from any area of danger.”
Two fires have been pushed together into one by strong winds in the RM of Grahamdale. It’s now estimated to cover 1,100 hectares, and is near the Lake St. Martin First Nation and Dauphin River First Nation.
The province says there are “significant concerns” that a fire near Homebrook could expand Tuesday. A nearby road construction camp has been evacuated, and the community itself is on standby.
That fire is estimated to be anywhere between 60,000 and 70,000 hectares, and the communities of Skownan First Nation, Waterhen, Mallard and Gypsumville may be impacted by the smoke.
The province says crews from Manitoba and Quebec are making “good progress” on a fire in the RM of Piney and the Sandilands.
No new issues are being reported at the Whiteshell Provincial Park and Toniata fire.
The local fire department and Manitoba Wildfire Service (MWS) are keeping an eye on a fire at Netley Creek and Libau, however, the terrain is making action difficult. No properties are at risk at the moment.
The communities of Seven Sisters Falls and Pinawa are experiencing smoky conditions due to a 3,800-hectare fire north of Whitemouth. MWS crews and water bombers are attacking this fire.
Hikers are urged to stay away from the Spirit Sands Trails in the Carberry desert, due to a fire near CFB Shilo and Spruce Woods Provincial Park. The fire is estimated to be 3,600 hectares and is being attacked by the Department of National Defence from Shilo, MWS, and local fire crews.
Three roads have been closed as well. They are:
- PTH 5 between Carberry and Glenboro
- PTH 6 between St. Martin Junction and Easterville Junction
- PR 307 between Seven Sisters Falls and Otter Falls
Wildfire smoke and health
Much of western and central Manitoba are under air quality advisories due to the wildfire smoke.
President and CEO of the Manitoba Lung Association, Neil Johnston, said people in those areas should be aware of when to seek medical help.
“Certainly if you’re short of breath, if your coughing is uncontrolled, if you feel dizzy, high heart rate, those kinds of things. If you feel like you’re getting into trouble, then you should be seeking medical care for sure,” he said.
“Any kind of smoke is irritating. It can be very uncomfortable for anyone, but those folks living with chronic lung conditions will be even more affected.
“We do recommend that if there’s wildfire smoke in the area of people with chronic lung disease, that they find a cleaner air environment and to make sure they have their medication with them at all times, and they follow their plan of care to take their medication appropriately to manage their symptoms, but for anyone it can be a problem.”