Forest fire puts Pukatawagan, MCCN under evacuation order Thursday

An evacuation order has been called for Pukatawagan and Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN) as a forest fire burns towards the community.

An evacuation order has been called for Pukatawagan and Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN) as a forest fire burns close to the community.A fire, first logged by Manitoba Conservation and Climate July 13, is currently burning west of Pukatawagan. According to the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS), hotspots have been reported within five kilometres of the community. There are no reports of injuries or damage as a result of the fire.According to most recent information from Manitoba’s Fireview map, the blaze has already reached a size of 1,800 hectares, but FIRMS data shows the size may be much larger – no firm estimate of size is yet available. Manitoba Conservation and Climate considers the fire to be “out of control” as of July 14.Winds have been carrying the fire and smoke from it eastward toward Pukatawagan throughout Thursday. Smoke from that fire and fires in northern Saskatchewan is blowing directly into the community. A special air statement was called for Pukatawagan/MCCN at around 3 p.m. Thursday by Environment Canada.

“Smoke is causing poor air quality and reducing visibility. Smoke is expected or occurring. Several wildfires have popped up in the Lynn Lake region. Downwind of these fires, wildfire smoke is causing poor air quality and reduced visibility at times,” reads the statement.

“Conditions are forecast to improve Friday overnight as winds shift.”

Missinippi Airways issued a statement Thursday that the company would not be accepting new reservations or freight until the fire is controlled in an effort to assist the evacuation effort.

“We are working with partners to help evacuate the community – unless of an urgent nature, please give us time to deal with this situation,” reads a statement issued by the airline.

Plans for people evacuated from Pukatawagan are to temporarily move them to The Pas or Thompson, with some receiving refuge in Brandon or Winnipeg. No confirmation has yet been received as to whether or not people evacuated from Pukatawagan will be sent to shelter in Flin Flon.
A train heading from The Pas to Pukatawagan Thursday was turned around and headed back to The Pas, away from the flames. People on the train will be housed in The Pas, say community leaders, with freight and goods from that train being temporarily stored in The Pas.

In a statement to The Reminder, Jason Small with the Manitoba Red Cross said the agency was working with community leaders to help move people to safety.

“We’re supporting local leaders and Indigenous Services Canada with the evacuation of community members due to wildfires,” Small said.

“We will be providing further information at a later time.”

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