Manitoba

Easterville, Chemawawin Cree Nation forest fire evacuees arrive in Winnipeg

A forest fire has forced the evacuation of the Easterville and the Chemawawin Cree Nation in central Manitoba, with at least 1,500 people fleeing the community Thursday.

'I hope and pray that the fire goes out and we can all go home,' Easterville resident tells CBC

This forest fire was burning about half a kilometre away from Easterville and the Chemawawin Cree Nation in central Manitoba as of Thursday afternoon. (Beverley George/Facebook)

A forest fire has forced the evacuation of the Easterville and the Chemawawin Cree Nation in central Manitoba on Thursday.

As a result a state of emergency has been declared as the fire inches closer to houses.

The first wave of evacuees from Chemawawin arrived Thursday night in Winnipeg. It is unclear exactly how many residents remain in the community.

"Quite a few people have left already but there's still some left," said Chemawawin Chief Clarence Easter.
A forest fire has forced the evacuation of the Easterville and the Chemawawin Cree Nation in central Manitoba on Thursday. 1:41

Up to 2,000 people from Chemawawin will be evacuated to Winnipeg, according to the province, while 70 others are heading to The Pas. The Red Cross is co-ordinating the evacuation.

Easter said some residents remained in areas under an evacuation order because "they want to keep their homes" and they don't think the fire "is that serious."

The chief said the fire presents a dangerous situation for residents — at the very least, the air quality has diminished significantly in the area due to high levels of smoke.

 
Wildfire evacuee Rosina Sinclair arrives in Winnipeg Thursday night with family by her side. (CBC)

"I'm scared. Worried. Homeless," said Rosina Sinclair, one of the evacuees in Winnipeg. She was only able to bring two pairs of clothes with her before leaving home.

"My heart is pounding. I feel for the rest of the residents of Easterville, lots to lose."

As of Thursday afternoon, the flames had moved within half a kilometre of the community.

Chemawawin Cree Nation is based in Easterville, which is about 450 kilometres north of Winnipeg.​

Chief Easter told CBC News the wildfire has been burning for a few days and waterbombers had been bringing it under control.

Windy conditions and hot temperatures made the fire worse on Thursday, and by 2 p.m. CT, Easter said he was advised by the province to issue the evacuation order.

"It all blew up this afternoon," he said. "I checked with resources this morning and they said it was OK, but then I checked again this afternoon and they said, 'No, you've got to evacuate.' It was that fast."

Easter said no injuries have been reported so far and no homes have been destroyed.

"Fire crews are working on three fires in the area, with ground attack as well as two water bombers," the province said.

'Get them out in time'

Easter said the evacuation order cut short the local school's graduation ceremony, but it was important for him to make sure everyone is safe.

"It's quite scary for some people. My fear was to get them out in time," he said.

Evacuee Arlene Young said her niece's graduation ceremony ended early on Thursday. Everyone was surprised by the evacuation order.

"It was so sudden," she said.

"I hope and pray that the fire goes out and we can all go home. I just feel devastated like some of us haven't been in the city ... it's just scary out here."

An RCMP spokesperson said "a number of officers" are helping emergency measures officials in the community.

One hundred wildfires have been reported in Manitoba this year, the average for this date is 233, said the province.

now