Manitoba wildfire grows nears Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, thousands evacuated

Click to play video: 'Manitoba wildfire grows nears Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, thousands evacuated'
Manitoba wildfire grows nears Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, thousands evacuated
All Mathias Colomb First Nation members have now been rescued from a large wildfire near Pukatawagan in Northern Manitoba. And people are wondering how long before they can go home. Brittany Greenslads reports. – Jul 18, 2022

Wildfires continue to ravage parts of Manitoba as the province says ten new fires have started in the past 24 hours.

The Manitoba Wildfire Service said there are currently 45 fires burning in the province including one less than a kilometre east of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN) which is now estimated to be 23,000 hectares in size.

“It’s scary,” evacuee Leo Sinclair told Global News.

Sinclair and his family were air lifted out of the First Nation on Friday and have spent the last four days in a Winnipeg hotel.

“Everybody wanted to take everything and they were told only to take one bag apiece,” he said. “Everybody met at the airport and two planes landed, choppers and the next hour, one Hercules landed.”

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On Saturday, two Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130H Hercules aircraft from 435 Squadron airlifted 41 evacuees from Pukatawagan to The Pas the RCAF told Global News via email.

: Members of 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron unload evacuees’ luggage at The Pas airport on July 16, 2022. Corporal Darren McDonald, 17 Wing Operations Support Squadron Imaging

“The Province of Manitoba and Indigenous Services Canada had a plan to extract the remaining people who had to be evacuated, and indicated there was no longer any need for support from the Canadian Armed Forces,” a spokesperson said.

Click to play video: '‘Everyone wanted to bring everything’: Manitoba First Nation evacuated due to wildfire'
‘Everyone wanted to bring everything’: Manitoba First Nation evacuated due to wildfire

The Canadian Red Cross has also been helping with the evacuations and said an estimated 2,000 people have been removed from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation.

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“This is a full evacuation of the community. So there’s everybody from children up to elders,” spokesperson Jason Small said Monday.

Mathias Colomb Cree Nation is a fly-in community which the Red Cross said has made evacuations more difficult.

An aerial view of the forest fire threatening the community of Pukatawagan taken from a 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron CC-130H Hercules aircraft (435 Transport and Rescue Squadron). 4435 Transport and Rescue Squadron

“We can’t just have people get in cars and trucks,” Small said. “We were able to organize charter flights, both airplanes and helicopters and as well, we worked very closely with the First Nation that coordinated train trips out of the community on the rails.”

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Small said evacuees are staying in hotels in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson and The Pas and that some will be moved in to a shelter at the University of Winnipeg Monday.

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“Obviously it’s a difficult experience,” he said. “Nobody likes to go through an evacuation. But, you know, the community did very well in pulling together and making sure everybody got out.”

Sinclair said he believes his home is still standing and undamaged and the family is just hoping they are able to return to the community soon.

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