Grass fires around Winnipeg spark burn ban in city

Dozens of firefighters battled a large grass fire that broke out north of Dugald Road Sunday morning. The fire came within a few hundred meters of Bernie Wolfe Community School on Bournais Drive before crews got it under control.

Firefighters battled large grass fire near Transcona-area homes Sunday

Police are asking the public to avoid the area. (Submitted by Hayden Maines)

Dozens of firefighters battled a large grass fire that broke out north of Dugald Road Sunday morning. The fire came within a few hundred meters of Bernie Wolfe Community School on Bournais Drive before crews got it under control. 

"Obviously with the wind conditions that we had, [the fire] escalated that it burned the whole field, and it actually came close to jumping the tracks to where the housing development is," said district fire chief Dean Neubauer.

Winds in the city were gusting up to 76 kilometres per hour, sending dust and smoke swirling in there air.
Smoke can be seen near a home. (Submitted/Hayden Maines)

Neubauer said crews acted quickly to contain the blaze from both sides of the CN railway tracks that run through the area. He said trains had to be stopped while crews worked.

"With these kinds of wind conditions, it can change in a second so we were well prepared," he said.

It's like lighting a match to gasoline, that's what the grass is out there, like solid gasoline.- Dean Neubauer, district fire chief.

Police also closed roads in the area and ambulances were called in as a precaution due to heavy smoke in the area.

"There was a couple of people complaining about smoke, we had paramedic units on that side and they responded to anybody who was complaining about breathing problems," said Neubauer.

Neubauer said the fire was started behind a nearby business.

"I think they were burning some rubbish, all it takes is a gust of wind and it was gone."

Resident worries dry conditions pose a danger

Alen Mikic, who lives in the area, said he smelled the smoke and went outside to see the fire after seeing a picture of the flames on social media.

"Very smoky, very smoky, you could smell it and feel it, it's in my mouth right now," said Mikic.
Alen Mikic says he left his home nearby to see how close the fire was. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Mikic said he's worried about the fire starting up again, and says the area is cause for concern because it's full of dry brush and the railway tracks are nearby.

"Just dry dry grass everywhere," he said.

"Kids are playing here everyday and there is families, it could ignite the houses."

Conditions spark city to issue burn ban

The fire has since been extinguished but conditions have prompted the city to place a temporary ban on open-air burn permits to prevent the accidental spread of fires.

That includes bonfires, burning crop residues, disposing of wood and warning fires.

"It's actually terribly dry, I've never seen it this dry in the beginning of May or the end of April," Neubauer said.

"It's like lighting a match to gasoline, that's what the grass is out there, like solid gasoline."
A police officer walks the railway tracks along the area where a grass fire burned near Dugald Road and Bournais Drive on Sunday. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

The ban will be lifted as soon as environmental conditions improve.

Fires are also not permitted in approved outdoor fire pits on public or private property when the wind speed exceeds 25 km/h.

"Even if they have fire pits in their backyard, especially with these wind conditions, just hold off on it, and wait till we get some rain and the winds calm down," said Neubauer.

​Nearby, the Trans-Canada Highway from Symington Road to Navin Road was also closed because of fire concerns.