Firefighters believe a large grass fire that ignited west of Carberry, Man., and forced 30 families from their homes on Thursday was started by an all-terrain vehicle.
A fire broke out near Camp Hughes — an old World War I military base in the Municipality of North Cypress-Langford about 170 kilometres west of Winnipeg — Thursday afternoon. The Carberry North Cypress-Langford Fire Department responded to the blaze, but several neighbouring fire departments were also called to help out.
The fire is now deemed under control, but the Carberry North Cypress-Langford Fire Department issued a news release Friday afternoon that provides a fuller picture of what occurred.
“Investigation is ongoing but we feel that this fire was started by an ATV,” the release says. “With the extremely dry conditions, we highly recommend no off-road travel anywhere in the Municipality of North-Cypress Langford.”
The Town of Carberry and the Municipality of North Cypress-Langford have been under a burn ban since March 19 due to dry conditions. All outdoor fires are prohibited and anyone caught violating the ban could be fined.
But shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday, the Carberry North Cypress-Langford Fire Department was called to a grass fire at Road 92 west and Road 59 north, near Camp Hughes and south of what is locally known as the Dane subdivision.
A section of Highway 351, from Highway 5 to the west junction of the Trans-Canada Highway, was closed Thursday afternoon because of the fire. The Dane subdivision is located just off that strip of highway.
“We assessed it as a fast-moving fire in high winds during a dry spring with tall grass (due to little snowfall this winter),” the fire department’s release states.
“We immediately activated mutual aid and called multiple water trucks from local farmers and colonies, as well as sequestering tractors, discs, and a scraper.”
The fire was moving faster than firefighters could douse it, however. It crossed a Canadian Pacific railway line and was moving north toward the Dane subdivision, threatening a number of homes, the release said.
Shortly before 5:45 p.m., Manitoba RCMP informed the public via social media about the grass fire and that an evacuation effort was underway. Police spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre told CBC News at the time that Mounties from the Blue Hills detachment were helping people living in the Dane subdivision to evacuate their homes.
About 30 families were sent to register at the hockey rink in Carberry, Friday’s release said. They were allowed to return to their homes around 8:30 p.m.
RCMP said on social media Thursday night that a house had burned down. In fact, a home received some damage to its siding because a nearby garden shed caught fire, according to Friday’s release from the fire department. No homes were lost.
Fire crews respond to second fire Thursday evening
As the initial grass fire was beginning to die down, the Carberry North Cypress-Langford Fire Department received a call about a second fire that it is deeming as suspicious.
Shortly after 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the fire department received the call about the second fire, which forced them to dispatch six fire trucks from the main scene.
“This second fire is deemed suspicious but was contained quickly,” Friday’s release says, adding that the fire trucks returned within 20 minutes.
Fire crews remained at the scene of the first fire until 11 p.m. Thursday to keep an eye on nearby homes while extinguishing small brush fires and hot spots, the release says.
The fire department returned to the scene at 6 a.m. Friday and continued monitoring throughout the day, putting out several hot spots, it says.
Given the current conditions in the area, the fire department suggests residents turn on all lawn sprinklers to start growing their grass, clean up debris around their homes, ensure gutters are clean and avoid piling wood on or near buildings, the release says.
The fire department is also advising the public to avoid visiting on-going emergency scenes in the future.
“Yesterday the smoke was so thick that it was difficult for first responders to see, and the situation was made worse by extra traffic from bystanders who had no business attending the scene,” the release says.
No injuries have been reported, Manaigre of the Manitoba RCMP told CBC News on Friday.