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Mixed emotions as wildfire evacuees are allowed to return home

The wildfire burning outside of Cranberry Portage, which forced hundreds of people to evacuate on May 11, 2024. (David Tait) The wildfire burning outside of Cranberry Portage, which forced hundreds of people to evacuate on May 11, 2024. (David Tait)
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Evacuees from Cranberry Portage were allowed to return home Sunday after hundreds were evacuated due to a major wildfire threatening the area.

The province announced on Friday that some evacuees would be able to head home as fire crews continued to fight the nearby blaze.

More than 500 people were evacuated from Cranberry Portage, Man., and almost another 200 from the surrounding region.

The areas included Cranberry Portage, and the cottage subdivisions of Whitefish Lake, Twin Lakes, Schist Lake and Sourdough Bay.

David Tait is one of those evacuees. He eventually settled in Winnipeg after leaving his home behind and said it was a whirlwind experience when he and his 11-year-old daughter were told to leave.

"They had the fire department, paramedics, police, all zooming around town with their lights on, and their messages over their loudspeakers saying we had 10 minutes to get out. So it was grab and a bag and get out," said Tait.

After leaving, he said his daughter was having a hard time breathing and ended up in the hospital in The Pas. They spent a few days in Swan River and then eventually ended up in Winnipeg, with the government paying for a hotel room in the city.

Even though he is allowed to return home, he plans to stay at the hotel until Tuesday. He said he is happy they are allowed to go home, but also has some concerns.

"Due to the smoke and the poor breathing, I'm reluctant to take my daughter back, especially since when we left she was in the hospital.

"I mean, it's not fun living out of a hotel room with a dog and two cats and my 11-year-old daughter…I'm really happy things are safe, but again…I don't want to get stuck in a situation where we go back, and this happens again. Because it was quite an ordeal."

Tait did share his gratitude and appreciation for all the people who are helping fight the wildfire and the job they have done keeping the blaze away from the town.

"It's times like this, that bring people together. They've done an amazing job. I mean, the fire was only a half kilometre from entering town since Saturday. So they really have been holding it off amazingly."

The latest information from the province's fire map shows the wildfire is still out of control and just under 37,000 hectares in size. However, on Friday, the province said the fire line near Cranberry Portage was under control.

The province announced Highway 10 was reopened after it was closed due to smoke from the fire. It also noted there were no other fire-related travel restrictions for the area.

 Manitoba government providing financial support

Sunday afternoon, the Manitoba government announced emergency financial support would be made available for residents who were evacuated.

"We know the impact that these wildfires have had on families in Cranberry Portage and surrounding communities," said Premier Wab Kinew in a news release. "As people being to return home, we (want) you to know that your government is going to be there for you. We're providing this financial support to help make sure families don't have to worry about getting groceries or paying bills at this challenging time."

The additional support will be a one-time payment, the province said. Eligible adults will get $200, while eligible children will get $100.

The money is for anyone who under the mandatory evacuation notice for seven days or more.

Evacuees can find more details on the government's website.

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