Out of control forest fire in Misipawistik Cree Nation destroys home, forces evacuations

WINNIPEG — One home has been destroyed and up to 50 homes have been evacuated as a forest fire burns out of control in a First Nation. The evacuation effort has been further complicated by a COVID-19 variant identified in the community.

Misipawistik Cree Nation Chief Heidi Cook told CTV News a fire broke out in Beardy’s Point on Tuesday afternoon, prompting the evacuation of between 40 and 50 homes in the area.

“It is really windy here and dry, so we had to start evacuating pretty quickly,” she said.

Cook said one home has been destroyed by the fire. No injuries have been reported.

“They got helicopters that are trying to drop water on homes to save homes,” she said. “They are just working to try and save as many homes as they can because the forest fire is out of control.”

Residents are now meeting at the muster point in the community where Misipawistik Cree Nation’s emergency response team is screening people for COVID-19 and finding spaces for them to go.

“We do have our list of vulnerable people with health conditions, small babies, pregnant women – those kinds of people, they’ll be prioritized because it is quite smoky in the community,” Cook said.

The emergency response team is also trying to find a safe way out of the community, as Highway 6 has been closed due to wildfires, Cook said.

The evacuation effort has become more complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cook said the first case of a COVID-19 variant of concern was reported in the community on Monday.

“We have to figure out who is supposed to be isolating and try and send them to different accommodations than the regular evacuation accommodations,” Cook said.

“It is a bit scary to think of having everybody get up and move at a time when we are supposed to be locking down – I just hope that everybody is safe.”

The chief said the community is working with the Red Cross to find hotel rooms for evacuees.

CTV News will update this story as more information becomes available. 

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