Canadian Armed Forces to help combat Manitoba wildfires
WINNIPEG -- Close to 130 wildfires are burning across Manitoba, and four First Nations communities in Eastern Manitoba have been evacuated as a result.
Cornell Mowat is from Bloodvein First Nation, he arrived in Winnipeg this morning after being evacuated last night.
“Leaving the community was the worst because (the fire) was on both sides of the road. All you could see was orange and thick black smoke, it was pretty terrifying,” said Mowat.
As of Wednesday, more than 1,300 people have been evacuated from their community due to the wildfires, and that number is expected to grow.
Mowat said in Bloodvein, it was hard to breathe. He couldn’t go outside, and he had to keep his windows closed so the smoke wouldn’t seep in.
“There’d be times where we’d get smoke ash. It’ll fall from the sky, it looks like snow but it’s just ash.”
Now reinforcements are on the way.
Tuesday, Federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair tweeted that the federal government approved a request from the province for Canadian Armed Forces Members to help fight the wildfires.
In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the Canadian Armed Forces said:
“The CAF is mobilizing resources to respond to this request in the form of up to 120 personnel trained in the required type of firefighting needed to support the Manitoba Wildfire Service (MWS). The majority of these personnel are from 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPLCI) based out of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Shilo.”
Public Safety Canada said the Armed Forces will arrive on July 23rd, and be in Manitoba helping with the wildfires until at least August 10th, but that stay could be extended depending on the need.
Little Grand Rapids First Nation was also evacuated due to the fires.
Coun. Blair Owen said he’s relieved the CAF is being deployed, but not happy about the timing.
“I think that’s a little too late. We knew these fires were growing, probably the call for help should have been sooner,” said Owen.
Owen said the evacuation is causing a lot of anxiety for the community, but there hasn’t been any damage to the infrastructure as of yet.
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief, Arlen Dumas said the fire has caused some incidental damage in surrounding communities.
“Not directly to the community, but I do know that some Manitoba Hydro installations have been burned. I know that some of the communities don’t have power now,” said Dumas.
“What that will mean is that everybody’s fridges and freezers are not going to be able to perform, so there will be a lot of spoilage of food.”
A spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro said the power line that feeds Berens River, Bloodvein, Little Grand Rapids, Poplar River, Loon Straits, Pauingassi, and Manigotagan was lost after midnight, affecting more than 2,000 customers.
Hydro said once the area is safe, crews will patrol the line to find the exact cause of the outages.
Mowat doesn’t know how long he’ll be away from his home in Bloodvein, he just hopes it’s the same when he gets back.
“I don’t want to go back home and have nothing be there,” said Mowat.