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'Never seen a fire move like this': Manitoba wildfire now at 31,500 hectares


Fire crews are continuing to battle a significant blaze in Manitoba’s north that has prompted evacuations.

Earl Simmons, director of Manitoba Wildfire Service, said the fire located near Flin Flon, which they have been fighting since Thursday, grew to 31,500 hectares on Saturday, where it has remained. The fire has prompted the nearby community of Cranberry Portage to evacuate all 550 residents.

“I’ve been working in wildfires for 40 years, I’ve never seen a fire move like this fire moved,” he said Monday afternoon.

The RM of Kelsey says in a social media post residents wanting to stay in Flin Flon instead of The Pas will be escorted through Cranberry Portage Tuesday.

It’ll happen at 2 p.m. starting from the south Cranberry Portage blockade. The RM says only those registered will be allowed to join the escort, and they must provide their own transportation. Those wanting to register are being asked to do so at the Wescana Inn between 10:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. Tuesday.

The fire was caused by dry lightning, and Simmons said the dry conditions in the area, along with the wind, helped the flames spread quickly. Smoke from the fire was observed in Winnipeg on Sunday.

“Usually this time of year, the soil is pretty moist, and a fire will whip over the surface,” he said. “Unfortunately, because we’re in a drought situation, fires burn down deep, and this fire will burn down deep.”

A map showing where the wildfire near Cranberry Portage is as of May 13, 2024. (CTV News Winnipeg)

Simmons said firefighters on scene had told him trees were toppling over as the fire burned to the roots.

Simmons said firefighters from Ontario have arrived in Manitoba to help, joining firefighters from Saskatchewan. There are currently 50 firefighters battling the blaze.

Water bombers have also been working in the area, Simmons said.

While the fire near Flin Flon remains at the same size, Simmons said the hard work will continue.

“We could be fighting that fire a month from now,” he said.

A second fire burning near The Pas is currently at 1,550 hectares, the province said.

The effects of wildfire smoke 

People in Winnipeg and around the province felt the impacts of the wildfire smoke on Sunday.

According to the Air Quality Health Index, it was a 10+ for most of the day in Winnipeg.

Juliette Mucha, the president and CEO of the Manitoba Lung Association, said this spring and summer, Manitobans need to keep an eye on the index, and take the appropriate steps to stay safe.

"Avoid being outside, doing strenuous activities outside," said Mucha. "Those at home, making sure you have your HEPA filters on your furnace. Spending time indoors - for those who might not be able to, taking breaks and going to your local shopping malls or community centres or libraries."

She said staying hydrated is also important to help combat any strain smoke has on the throat and lungs. Wearing a mask is also a preventative measure Mucha recommends.

She noted those most at risk are young children, seniors and people with pre-existing heart or lung conditions, and added they should take extra precautions when wildfire smoke is bad.

For otherwise healthy people who are feeling the impacts of the smoke, Mucha said the symptoms will eventually subside.

"(Make) sure you keep your body hydrated. For someone who is healthy and had to be outside and had some exposure, it could take weeks potentially to maybe get rid of that little cough, watery eyes, sensitivity to your nose."

If symptoms continue, Mucha said it is best to consult your doctor.

For more information on what to do and how to stay safe, people can visit the Manitoba Lung Association's website. Top Stories

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