Manitoba

Drone blocks water bomber from fighting wildfire in Manitoba's Whiteshell Provincial Park

A waterbomber trying to put out a forest fire in eastern Manitoba had to turn back after someone on West Hawk Lake flew a drone in its way, the province says.

Area of eastern Manitoba now under a travel ban, forest fires continue to burn under extremely dry condition

The Manitoba Wildfire Service says the drone was flown by someone on the south shore of West Hawk Lake on Saturday, but the person wasn't spotted in the crowd of beach-goers. People who fly drones near active fires could face charges. (Digital Timber web page)

A water bomber trying to put out a forest fire in eastern Manitoba had to turn back after someone flew a drone in its way, according to the province.

It happened on Saturday as the plane was en route to douse the flames of a fire in Whiteshell Provincial Park near the Ontario border. The water bomber was flying over the south shore of West Hawk Lake when a drone got in the way of its flight path.

The water bomber had to turn back, leaving the firefighters on the ground in jeopardy.

"That could have turned into something way worse than it was, just because someone flew a drone," said Don Hallett, assistant director for the Manitoba Wildfire Service. "Thankfully the ground crews were able to do what we needed them to do."

The province says there were many people on the beach, but the person flying the drone wasn't spotted.

"Just take your communities into consideration and your fellow Manitobans into consideration," Hallett said.

He says people who fly drones near active fires could face charges. Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to contact Falcon Lake RCMP.

Residents in part of eastern Manitoba 'must be ready to leave'

Extremely dry conditions continue to hamper efforts to control wildfires. Most of Manitoba remains under a fire ban, including provincial parks and most municipalities, including Winnipeg.

Starting Tuesday morning, additional restrictions will be in place for an area near the Ontario border.

A full travel ban will kick in for the Wildfire Service's Area 4 — which encompasses the large area north of the Wanipigow River, east of Lake Winnipeg to the Ontario border including Atikaki Provincial Park and north to Poplar River.

The province says there will be no access to cottages, and permanent residents must be ready to leave on an hour's notice.

There are 130 forest fires burning right now in Manitoba, including about two dozen the province lists as out of control.

Most of the current fires were started by natural causes like lightning strikes, Hallett said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca

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