Manitoba premier to tour wildfire zone as evacuees await word on their future

While it continues to rain here in WinnipeThe over 35,000-hectare fire that forced over 550 people to evacuate Cranberry Portage rages on, this as Premier Wab Kinew visits Northwestern Manitoba to address the crisis. Mitchell Ringos reports.

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew is touring an area in the province’s northwest today that has been hit by a large wildfire.

“We’ll be present to ensure every resource goes out the door to fight fires this wildfire season,” said Premier Kinew. “It is going to continue to be a serious situation for some time.”

Hundreds of people were told to leave Cranberry Portage on the weekend as winds drove the fire close to the community.

Reception centres have been set up in many places including the Pas and Flin Flon.

As of Tuesday there was no guarantee they would be able to head back anytime soon, as the province expects this fire could last weeks.

Right now they have set aside $50 million in this year’s budget for emergency management, but Kinew says there is no limit above that if needed.

Provincial officials say the fire hasn’t changed much in the last two days — it is still measured at 316 square kilometres in size and is within 1,500 metres of Cranberry Portage.

The Premier saw first-hand the devastation the wildfire is causing after landing at the Flin Flon airport, located within 10 kilometres of the fire line before being escorted to Bakers Narrows by RCMP.

That’s where the Manitoba Wildfire Service established an incident command centre to monitor the blaze currently burning north of Flin Flon and east of Cranberry Portage after dry lighting, drought conditions and high caused the fire, forcing hundreds to evacuate.

“It’s pretty striking when you see you know trees that are decades old completely on fire, seeing folks on the ground working tirelessly to fight the situation and you see that multiplied over such a large region,” said Kinew.

A section of the main highway in the region, Highway 10, is open but motorists must go to a check stop and get a police escort to travel through.

The fire has crossed a section of railway in the area and has shut down rail travel between Cranberry Portage and Pukatawagan to the north.

There is now more than 100 firefighters on scene in northwest Manitoba, after the Wildfire service enlisted support of 55 additional firefighters from Ontario and Saskatchewan.

The province has implemented what they call a “cross-departmental response” mobilizing staff from the departments of families, finance and health to render aid to those who need it.

“It really is a joint effort that’s what Canadians do in times of need we help one another out, so our hope is that we can manage this situation and then lend a hand in other parts of the Country in the future,” said Kinew.

Manitoba Hydro says they hope to have power restored to Cranberry Portage within the next few hours, while Sourdough Bay is now partly restored.

-With files from the Canadian Press

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