Manitoba forbids campfires, closes trails and bans backcountry travel due to wildfire threat

Campfires are forbidden, dozens of hiking trails are closed and backcountry travel is banned across broad swaths of Manitoba due to the risk of wildfires.

Large swath of province, from Ontario to Saskatchewan, now closed except for developed areas

Manitoba has banned backcountry camping and travel in much of the province due to the wildfire risk. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

Campfires are forbidden, dozens of hiking trails are closed and backcountry travel is banned across broad swaths of Manitoba due to risk of wildfires.

Manitoba Conservation and Climate enacted sweeping fire restrictions Thursday intended to prevent people from travelling through or camping in all provincial parks south of the 53rd parallel, two provincial wildlife management areas and large tracts of Crown land on either side of Lake Winnipeg's northern basin.

The ban affects travellers on foot, bikes, ATVs and in boats.

The area affected by the fire restrictions covers thousands of square kilometres, mostly in a broad curve of the province that extends from the Ontario border to the Saskatchewan border west of Duck Mountain Provincial Park.

"There are drought conditions across much of southern Manitoba, which can allow wildfires to spread out of control quickly and challenge the ability to fight multiple fires at the same time," the provincial wildfire service stated in a news release. 

"Human-caused fires are preventable and put people and communities unnecessarily at risk."

The fire-restriction area also includes the Lauder Sand Hills and Mars Hills wildlife management areas and provincial forests abutting restricted parks.

A map of the restricted areas lists the restrictions in each region.

The Manitoba Wildfire Service warned people to avoid the Toniata area around Falcon Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park earlier this week because of a wildfire. (Submitted by Dana Moore)

In these areas, camping is now limited to developed, road-accessible campgrounds south of the 53rd parallel.

Backcountry travel  is forbidden and backcountry camping is banned in most of Manitoba's most popular provincial parks, including Whiteshell, Nopiming, Hecla, Spruce Woods, Turtle Mountain and Duck Mountain.

Backcountry water access by canoe or motorized boats is also forbidden, although landing and launching is allowed along developed shorelines. Mountain-bike and equestrian trails are also closed.

Most of the province's hiking trails are closed, including the popular Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods, the Mantario Trail in the Whiteshell, and all but two trails in Birds Hill Park northeast of Winnipeg.

A full list of trail closures is posted on the provincial parks' website.

A handful of trails remain open near developed campgrounds and town sites within provincial parks. The Toniata seasonal campground in the Whiteshell, located near a recent fire, is closed. 

The Equestrian and Canoe Landing campgrounds in Spruce Woods Provincial Park are also closed.

The province is also restricting burning permits in many areas. Open fires were already banned in several municipalities, including St. Clements.

Conditions have been dry all spring along the Epinette Creek-Newfoundland Trail in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. The 42-kilometre trail system is among those closed to day use and camping. (Bartley Kives/CBC)



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