Rural Manitoba fires keep crews busy

Fire crews in rural Manitoba have been busy with a number of grass and other fires this weekend, including four blazes near one community.

4 fires reported near one community alone

Clouds of smoke linger in the sky above Selkirk, Man., on Saturday evening, as fire crews battled a large scrapyard fire in the area. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Fire crews in rural Manitoba have been busy with a number of grass and other fires this weekend, including four blazes near one community.

Volunteer firefighters in the Rural Municipality of Springfield were kept busy with three fires on Saturday and one on Sunday afternoon, all of them just outside Anola, Man.

The Sunday afternoon blaze, which was reported at about 2 p.m. CT, destroyed a historic house and a related building, and damaged two other buildings.

Springfield fire Chief Dick Vlaming told CBC News the fire is under control and crews are investigating what may have  caused it.

Damage to the house is estimated at $100,000.

Grass fire destroys barn, house

Meanwhile, Springfield firefighters battled a grass fire that burned more than 160 hectares and destroyed an abandoned barn and house near Anola on Saturday afternoon.

Firefighters at the grass fire near Anola, Man., on Saturday afternoon. (CBC)

"It started in a farmyard, went across, and it became an uncontrolled grass and bush fire," Vlaming said earlier on Sunday.

One firefighter suffered from smoke inhalation while fighting the blaze.

Vlaming said hydroelectricity lines were down on the property, preventing crews from saving the buildings.

"There was some pretty spectacular zapping, and the sparks, and they were arcing in the yard. So we couldn't send firefighters in there," he said.

"There was quite a hazard for firefighters getting into that yard."

That fire has been deemed to be accidental. Damage is estimated at $250,000.

Two more fires were reported in the Anola area on Saturday:

  • An electrical fire destroyed a shop and damaged a house at around 9:30 a.m. Damage is estimated at $150,000.
  • An accidental grass and bush fire, reported at about 8:30 p.m., came close to some homes. Vlaming said fire crews were able to keep the blaze from the buildings. No damage was reported.

Anola is located about 40 kilometres east of Winnipeg.

Industrial fire near Selkirk

Also on Saturday, water bombers were brought in to help douse the fire at Mandak Industries near Selkirk, Man. The blaze sent clouds of heavy smoke billowing into the sky for much of the evening.

A water bomber flies over the Selkirk, Man., area on Saturday afternoon and evening. (Doug MacIntosh)

"We probably had it more or less knocked down in a matter of several hours or so, and we worked throughout the night to get out all the hot spots," Selkirk fire Chief Dan Thorsteinson told CBC News on Sunday morning.

"Just early this morning we finished. I think we got back to the fire hall at about 7," he added. "The guys were there all night. It was a pretty tough slug."

Thorsteinson said the burn area was almost half a kilometre long and 30 metres across.

Seven neighbouring fire departments were called in, as well as the provincial water bomber fleet, he added.

Manitoba's fire commissioner is investigating what may have caused the blaze, said a provincial government spokesman.

The fire commissioner's office is investigating other fires at a Loewen Windows facility in Steinbach, Man., and at a 100-year-old barn in Oakbank, Man., according to a spokesman.

Rural firefighters also had to deal with grass fires near Headingley and Richer, Man., over the weekend.

Burn bans in effect

Large grass fires tend to start on weekends, says Robert Pike, Manitoba's deputy fire commissioner.

"We've been getting wind and it's still dry, and people are out and about, so more cigarettes, more ATVs," Pike said.

"People just need to be aware: if they're doing yard work, avoid using fire as a means of cleaning up their yards."

Vlaming said dry conditions and strong winds in his area mean a high potential for wildfires to spread.

"We've got a burn ban in the R.M. of Springfield, which means you can be charged if you started the fire," he said.

"We're just telling people just do not burn it — it's so dry in the forest and in the grass areas."