Dozens of fires continue to blaze across Manitoba as around 86 wildfire-trained military personnel are set to start assisting the Manitoba Wildfire Service (MWS) on Friday.
Manitoba Conservation and Climate’s latest fire update reports no communities are at immediate risk, although the growing number of wildfires and increasing smoke have forced the evacuation of another Indigenous community in the province.
The Canadian Red Cross said it was helping people with health concerns from Red Sucker Lake First Nation, about 700 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. Around 300 people were expected to start flying out of the community on Thursday to stay in hotels in Winnipeg and Brandon. It’s the fifth Manitoba First Nation whose members have been forced to leave their homes this week.
Most people from the Little Grand Rapids, Bloodvein and Berens River First Nations have left, while Pauingassi First Nation completed its evacuation on Monday. About 2,000 people have been displaced so far, and the number is growing.
Military, out-of-province help coming
Across the province, 123 fires are burning, a large proportion of which were scattered across the northern fire region.
Manitoba Conservation’s interactive fire map marks most of the out-of-control fires as northeast and east of Flin Flon.
Members of the military left Canadian Forces Base Shilo this morning for four staging areas in Swan River/Cowan, Gypsumville, Sherridon/Cold Lake and Nopiming Provincial Park, where they’ll establish camps, hold existing fire lines and suppress hot spots.
Participating soldiers have been undergoing firefighting training and rigorous planning at the base over the past week, a spokesperson with the Canadian Armed Forces said Friday.
The personnel will be helping out until at least Aug. 10, possibly longer pending the wildfire situation, a spokesperson said.
Eighty-six members left the base between 6 a.m. and noon on Friday, many of whom had long drives ahead of them, Lt.-Col. Jesse van Eijk with the Canadian Armed Forces told Global News Friday afternoon.
Forces, which are expected to arrive by the end of the day, will link up with the MWS personnel on the ground and could push forward to the fire lines as early as Friday evening, he said, where they’ll set up smaller five-person camps.
Van Eijk said the soldiers would help free up MWS firefighting specialists, who must attend to more dangerous sites, and watch areas where fires have already ripped through.
“They need some backup to watch those areas and keep a lid on it while they go out and do some of the more specialist tasks,” he said. “What you’ll see is a lot of, what is frankly hard, hot, dirty work, walking the fire lines in high humidity with bugs in firefighting protective equipment.”
But Van Eijk said they’re happy to help locally, as they did when COVID-19 outbreaks threatened northern First Nations communities.
“This is personal for the battalion. We live in Manitoba. We wake up every morning. You smell the smoke. You see it, going out there to communities that are all around us, like north, east, west,” he said.
The province is also receiving support from the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Quebec, along with Parks Canada, with more help expected to arrive from New Brunswick this weekend.
–With files from The Canadian Press