Thick smoke from wildfires raging in northern Manitoba is complicating evacuation efforts.
An out-of-control wildfire is now 700 kilometers from Winnipeg, the largest community of the Mathias Columbus Cree Nation, located two kilometers from Pucatawagan.
The state said the fire is currently at 10,000 hectares and is growing due to high winds.
“We’re still going to continue to see wind conditions out of the west, so again, towards the community, and tomorrow, we’re hoping for a change to see the wind conditions move back in the other direction,” Kaylin Hodder said. At the Manitoba Wildfire Service, Fire Manager, Prevention and Mitigation.
Due to the fire’s proximity, the First Nation has begun evacuating 2,200 residents.
As of Thursday night, the Red Cross said it was transporting 25 high-risk people from the area to Thompson and supporting forty other residents in The Pas.
“We are experiencing some delays on some of our flights, but my understanding is that we are getting planes and helicopters to help with evacuations,” said Jason Small, a spokesman for the Canadian Red Cross.
In a phone call with CTV News, the Keewatin Railway Company confirmed that the train will take about 300 Pukatawagan residents south on Friday night.
The state said it has several fire crews in the area and is using water bombs as much as possible.
“So they’re moving around and protecting houses, cabins, exits or whatever. This could be around the fire and critical infrastructure, so the water lines make sure the rail line is clear,” Hodder said.
The state notes that on top of the wind, smoky conditions will make it difficult to fight the fire.
“We’re seeing a lot of setbacks from smoky conditions,” Hodder said. “The smoke is very, very heavy, and that often means planes can’t get in and out of the community.”
Canada issued an air quality warning for the area early Friday morning.
“Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, sore throat, headache, or shortness of breath. Children, the elderly, and people with cardiovascular or lung disease such as asthma are particularly at risk,” read the warning section.
The district believes the fire was likely caused by lightning.
Manitoba Wildfire Service With increased lightning and less rain, the wildfire danger level is high in the province.
According to the latest provincial fire data, 39 fires are burning in Manitoba, with three new fires burning in the past 24 hours.
CTV News reached out to the Chief and Council of the Mathias Columbus Cree Nation, but has not yet heard back.