Four homes destroyed in fire on Dakota Plains First Nation
Nothing left but the foundations, after four houses were destroyed by fire Tuesday evening on the Dakota Plains First Nation, southwest of Portage la Prairie.
Community members believe a brush fire may have started accidently at a condemned dump nearby.
Elder Leslie Smoke says he could see the fire as he was arriving home for the day.
"I see the smoke rising along the creek and it seemed like it was behind our houses, and I got out and sure enough it was already coming up towards the house," said Smoke.
Smoke says he ran to get help, but by the time he got back one of the houses was already ablaze. He helped evacuate two other homes damaged by smoke.
Other homes, luckily unoccupied at the time, could not be saved.
“We couldn't hold it back because of the wind and the storm out here," said Smoke.
Chief Orville Smoke says neighbouring Long Plain First Nation and the Town of MacGregor came to the rescue.
The Chief says under federal guidelines, the community of 125 people is considered too small to be eligible for its own fire truck.
"We are the bottom rung, we are the poorest of the poor, and we're very fortunate if we get anything, so this is quite a setback," said Chief Smoke.
Chief Smoke believes all of the houses could have been saved if the community had proper fire and water services.
"It's time to take us seriously as human beings and do the things that are necessary for us to live comfortably,” said Chief Smoke.
A spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada sent this statement:
"ISC provides $3.66 million in annual funding to support First Nations in Manitoba for operations and maintenance of fire protection services. Approximately $2.57 million goes directly to Manitoba First Nations for operation and maintenance of fire protection services. The remainder goes to technical advisory organizations, such as Tribal Councils, who are funded to provide training, education and technical assistance in support of fire services in First Nation communities.
The level of funding each First Nation receives for fire protection is based on several factors, including the number of buildings on the reserve, population, local environment and how close the reserve is to other communities.
ISC provides $8,260 annually to Dakota Plains First Nation for fire protection services. As First Nations manage fire protection services on reserve, Chiefs and Councils may establish their own fire departments, or contract fire protection services from nearby communities. Questions about Dakota Plains First Nation’s fire services should be directed to the First Nation’s Chief and Council."