‘Everybody is safe’: Manitobans await news after wildfire threat leads to evacuation of town

Residents of Cranberry Portage, Man., are anxiously awaiting word about the fate of their homes as a massive wildfire quickly approaches the community, but the municipality’s emergency coordinator says the more than 700 people who were evacuated from the area can at least take comfort in being physically safe.

Lori Forbes of the RM of Kelsey told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg that the evacuees are taking things hour by hour.

“We cannot be naive and think the worst is over,” Forbes said. “We don’t know that — that’s the unknown. What we do know is that we have everybody out and everybody is safe.”

The blaze, most recently described by the province as 38 kilometres long and 12 kilometres wide, exploded in size over the weekend due to high winds and dry conditions, forcing the departure of everyone in the town south of Flin Flon.

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Residents who needed accommodations were placed in hotels in nearby The Pas and Swan River, which are now completely booked up.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba wildfire update'

Manitoba wildfire update

Forbes said given the weather conditions, the situation was not a surprise for many longtime residents, who have been through similar fires in the past.

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“Everybody knows. … I’ve lived here for years and I’ve never seen it so dry. Things can happen very quickly with a fire,” she said.

“Things can be very unpredictable, and I think we did a good job of getting people out, and people are safe. Our priority definitely was met there.”

The province says local air tankers are battling the fire along with support from Saskatchewan, with the imminent arrival of even more crews from Ontario.

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While they wait, Forbes said, the community is banding together.

“I had a family of people show up yesterday with pots of food. It was just brilliant.

“We had just had a pizza offering for our evacuees here and we had just fed everybody, so we ended up sending that over to one of the schools where we’re housing a whole bunch of students from the Frontier School Division.”

Click to play video: 'Manitoba officials brace for potential record-breaking wildfire season'

Manitoba officials brace for potential record-breaking wildfire season

Residents told Global News they fled with whatever important belongings they were able to carry, and are hoping for the best.

“There was a lot of people in the street and stuff like that — a lot of emergency services — and people were just trying to pack their stuff, loading up their boats, their quads, anything they could,” said Keith Jaegar of the chaos surrounding the evacuation.

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“I had some family come in, and they were grabbing their campers and whatnot and just trying to take them to The Pas. It was pretty hectic.”

Jaegar said he was just returning to town from a quadding trip when he heard about the evacuation order, and had just two hours to get packed and on the road to The Pas.

Leeta Charlette-Miller said she packed up her valuable belongings and is now staying in The Pas with family.

“Lots of prayers to the fire crews out there,” she said.

“Honestly, we’re just trying to stay calm about it all. We’re not trying to freak out about it … because that’s a big fire, and we have no control over it.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg hosts simulated air-quality emergency ahead of wildfire season'

Winnipeg hosts simulated air-quality emergency ahead of wildfire season

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