Forest fire near Manitoba-Ontario border forces evacuations
A forest fire in the Whiteshell area has grown in size.
Officials with the Wildfire Program of Manitoba Sustainable Development said the fire is now 700 hectares in size.
That’s 500 hectares larger than it was on Thursday.
The cottage community of Ingolf is under a mandatory evacuation order. Officials said the evacuation is a precautionary move.
About 100 people have been forced from their homes.
The only road into the community has been blocked off by yellow police tape. Authorities are not allowing anyone to return to their homes and it’s not known how long the evacuation will last.
Bob and Donna Hazlehurst were asked to leave at around 8 p.m. Thursday. There’s no road access to their cottage - the only way in is by boat.
While evidence of the forest fire was not apparent from Ingolf on Friday, Hazlehurst said the threat is still very real.
“We just grabbed a bag and threw it in the boat and headed out,” said Bob Hazlehurst. “With the wind picking up again today, pretty worried if it catches on our side of the lake. It’s all trees, it’s going to go up quick.”
So far, there’s no reports any homes have been damaged, and it’s not clear exactly how many homes are threatened by the fire.
Watching the images out of Fort McMurray helps Bob Hazlehurst understand why they were asked to leave.
“You understand what the fire can do then,” said Hazlehurst. “It can jump tree-to-tree and go fast, you don’t have a chance.”
At 700 hectares, the Whiteshell fire is nowhere near as large as the wildfire in Fort McMurray, which now covers more than 100,000 hectares.
Geoffrey Smith, the Whiteshell Regional Field Supervisor for Manitoba Sustainable Development, said the fire was first detected Thursday afternoon in the Florence Lake area north of West Hawk Lake.
Smith said a northwest wind pushed the flames across the border into Ontario.
The fire is now burning on both sides of the border.
Smith said no cottages are at risk on the Manitoba side of the border, but strong winds have made it a difficult fire to fight.
“The fire is getting fairly large,” said Smith. “With the activity yesterday, we weren’t able to put any personnel on the fire line because the fire was that active, very active. The trees were crowning and it was a pretty hot fire.”
“The big concern is the wind pushing the fire further.”
There were six water bombers from Manitoba and Ontario working on the fire on Thursday, three water bombers from Ontario were still in the air on Friday.
Crews in Ontario have set up sprinkler systems to protect cottages near Ingolf and north of Ingolf.
It’s not known how the fire started, however residents reported lightning in the area earlier in the week.
Evacuations ordered in Nopiming Provincial Park
Another much larger wildfire near Ontario-Manitoba border has forced the evacuation of people in the Beresford cottage subdivision of Nopiming Provincial Park. The fire now covers approximately 10,000 hectares, the Wildfire Program of Manitoba Sustainable Development said in a news release.
The province warned that the fire east of Beresford Lake had worsened to the point that a mandatory evacuation order was necessary.
"Burning permits for the eastern, central and western areas of the province remain cancelled and motorized backcountry travel is banned between noon and 7 p.m. daily in southeast Manitoba," the province said in a news release.
The restricted area stretches from PR 302 east to the Ontario border, and from the U.S. border north to Lake Winnipeg and the Wanipigow River.
Several hiking trails in Whiteshell Provincial Park, including the Hunt Lake, Mantario and McGillivray Falls trails, are close until conditions improve.
There are five other wildfires burning in Manitoba, including near Lake Winnipegosis, near Peguis First Nation, near Whitemouth, near Dauphin River, and near Sagkeeng First Nation, the province said in a news release. There are seven fires currently burning in Manitoba.
So far this year, there have been 45 wildfires, the province said. The average for this date is 70.