Grass fire sweeps up within metres of some Winnipeg homes

Some residents in Winnipeg had a smoky and somewhat scary Easter Monday after a swift-moving grass fire came within metres of their homes.

Jim Macgregor and his wife were in their house on Charleswood Road when they saw smoke coming from the field behind it around 2:30 p.m.

“We jumped up and and the back of our yard — the trees, part of the grass — was already ablaze. It was crazy how quickly it came. That was the really, I think, surprising thing for us,” he said.

“It was very scary.”

The couple’s backyard adjoins a field where the fire was initially sparked, and in the 25 years they have lived there, a similar situation has happened only a couple of other times.

They called 911 and were told by the operator that crews were already on the way.

Firefighters hose down a grass fire on Monday, which Jim Macgregor and his wife watched from their window. The darkened swath behind the firefighters, which looks like a road, is the burned field. (Submitted by Jim Macgregor)

“As we went outside, neighbours were out and about and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service showed up very, very quickly, so that was great, but I got out the garden hose to try to do something,” Macgregor said.

“[The flames] came halfway up the yard and we’ve got a big yard, so we were lucky that way, but neighbours to the south of us, it was a lot closer to their to their houses because their yards are smaller.”

He called it horrifying to watch the fire consume the dry grass and advance on the homes.

“It was something I don’t want to repeat any time soon, that’s for sure,” Macgregor said, describing how the street was full of emergency vehicles and hoses snaked through yards and into the field.

The fire spread several hundred metres wide through the grassy and forested area behind the homes and partially into the yards, a City of Winnipeg news release says. (Submitted by Jim Macgregor)

Crews had the fire under control around 3:40 p.m., a City of Winnipeg news release says.

The fire ultimately spread “several hundred metres” wide through the grassy and forested area behind the homes and partially into the yards, the news release says.

One firefighter was injured and required medical attention, but the city did not provide any information about the extent of the injury.

Emergency responders stayed until about 5 p.m., soaking everything and making sure there were no hot spots, a city spokesperson said.

The cause of the fire is not known at this time.

A lack of significant moisture during the winter and rainfall in the spring so far have resulted in tinder-dry conditions.

Winnipeg had its third driest winter on record, with only about 25 millimetres of precipitation in December, January and February, according to statistics.

Many municipalities in southern Manitoba have implemented burn bans, which cover outdoor fire pits and the use of fireworks.

Motorized backcountry travel has also been prohibited in many places after a large grass fire west of Carberry was believed to have been started by an ATV. The blaze forced 30 families from their homes April 1.

“Everybody, please be safe right now,” Macgregor said. “It’s so dry out there and things can happen in an instant, believe me.”

The City of Winnipeg also urges people to be extremely cautious and suggest homeowners thin and prune vegetation around their yards and clean up dead leaves, grass and other debris.

“Watering plants and vegetation in the area surrounding your home is also important, particularly in the first 10 metres around the home,” the city news release says.