'Volatile' forest fires along Manitoba-Ontario border force more evacuations

Evacuation orders have been issued for more than a hundred cottages in and around Caddy and Wallace lakes where forest fires continue to threaten areas near the Manitoba-Ontario border.

2,800-hectare fire still spreading; 50,000 hectare fire north in Nopiming Provincial Park rages on

Evacuation orders have been issued for more than a hundred cottages in and around Caddy and Wallace lakes where forest fires continue to threaten areas near the Manitoba-Ontario border. 2:11

Evacuation orders have been issued for more than a hundred cottages in and around Caddy and Wallace lakes where forest fires continue to threaten areas near the Manitoba-Ontario border.

"It's still out of control," said Gary Friesen, manager of the fire program with Manitoba Sustainable Development. "It's a very volatile condition."

Strong winds, dry conditions and a lack of rainfall have allowed the fires — one in and around Nopiming Provincial Park, the other a couple hours to the south near Caddy Lake — to expand in all directions since they were both first detected May 5.

As of Sunday, the province estimated the fire east of Caddy Lake had spread across 1,000 hectares of brush and bush. As of Monday morning, the province now believes the fire has covered 2,800 hectares.
The view from Caddy Lake on Monday at around 4 p.m. CT. (Nelly Gonzalez/CBC)

Provincial spokesperson Earl Simmons confirmed Monday morning that at least 50 cabins are under a mandatory evacuation order along the east shore of Caddy Lake, including Green Bay Resort; however, the majority of properties are empty.

Occupants in three cabins were evacuated in the Caddy Lake area and seven residences were evacuated in the West Hawk Lake area, said the province.

Brent Bullee lives at West Hawk Lake with his young family and owns a restaurant and mobile marine business there.

He said his family is expecting an evacuation order to come soon.

"These evacuation notices are just coming closer and closer and closer to my two businesses and my house and my family. It's very scary," said Bullee.

Members of the South East Whiteshell Fire Department and officers with Manitoba Sustainable Development and RCMP have been going door-to-door since 8 a.m. Monday asking people to leave the area.
Smoke billowing out in Nopiming Provincial Park near Beresford Lake. (Susan Babynchuk)

The province said officials are also installing temporary sprinkler systems at cabins on Caddy Lake, West Hawk Lake, Florence Lake, Nora Lake and McDougalls Landing.

McDougalls Landing, 11 kilometres from West Hawk Lake, was evacuated Saturday. Whiteshell Provincial Park, Hunt Lake, Mantario and McGillivray Falls hiking trails have been closed, the province said.

The blaze already prompted residents in the small Ontario community of Ingolf to leave the area, with some now worried more evacuations in the Whiteshell could be on the way if the fires don't let up.

Nopiming fire

Meanwhile, the Nopiming Provincial Park fire grew dramatically in size over the weekend. Latest estimates from the province on Monday suggest the fire has reached as far west as Beresford Lake and covers an area of 50,000 hectares, up from 13,000 hectares on Friday.

Twenty-five people were asked to leave their homes and cabins in the Beresford Lake area Friday. One lodge and 61-one properties in Wallace Lake, about 20 kilometres north of Beresford, were evacuated Monday.

Nine waterbombers from Ontario and Manitoba have been dousing both blazes over the past few days. Thirty firefighters are currently fighting the Beresford blaze.
A forest fire burns north of Caddy Lake Sunday. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

More people in Nopiming could be asked to leave the area later on Monday if the fire continues to spread, the province added.

More info needed

Shaun Harbottle, owner of Crescent Beach Cottages & Motel in West Hawk, said people from evacuation zones have been renting rooms from his business. Some evacuees have said they wish the province was providing more updates on the progress of the fire.

"It would be nice if we had more information, more real-time information," Harbottle said. "I know that the one person that was evacuated here just said they phoned and they were told they won't be allowed back into the north shore of West Hawk for sure tonight and possibly tomorrow."

The province says encourages Manitobans to check the @MBGovNews Twitter page for the most timely updates on the fire. Otherwise, more details about fire updates are available on the province's website and on regular afternoon bulletins released by the province.

CBC Manitoba meteorologist John Sauder forecasts rain is on the way that could help with fire containment efforts in the coming days.

Fire chief hopes for 'big, big rain'

Bruce Morrison, the chief of the Southeast Whiteshell Fire Department, said crews are putting up "value protections," which are sprinkler systems used to bring up the humidity level in certain areas to help protect cottages or businesses.

"They're protecting the cottage by wetting it, but they're high enough now that it's bringing up the moisture levels in the area," he said.

The sprinklers are mounted directly on buildings, and so far, the community has enough of them on hand. That will change if the fire continues to spread, Morrison said.

"If we had big, big rain, and it was sustained rains, it would be terrific. It would put a huge dent in it," said Morrison. "There's a lot of concern ... There's a lot of old cottages in the area and old family memories."

Map of Manitoba forest fires

Fire crews are focusing on protecting about 50 cottages in the Caddy lake area. They are under an evacuation order because of a growing forest fire nearby. 1:10