Volunteer firefighters rush to save homes in Petersfield, Man.

Volunteer firefighters in a rural Manitoba municipality are rushing to sandbag homes in Petersfield, Man., after a sudden spike in creek levels.

Crews worked Friday and Saturday to sandbag, build dikes

Some homes in Petersfield, Man., have water in their basements. Firefighters worked overnight to build sandbag dikes in the area. (Don McIntosh)

Volunteer firefighters in a rural Manitoba municipality rushed to sandbag homes and build dikes in Petersfield, Man., after a sudden spike in Netley Creek levels.

George Pike, mayor of the Rural Municipality of St. Andrews, said as many as 25 firefighters were working Saturday to reinforce dikes and pump water from flooded-out areas.

Pike said crews have already used 500 sandbags but have another 500 on standby. 

He said water got past a dike and flooded crawl spaces in at least two homes. 

Speaking on the phone from Petersfield just before 2 p.m., Pike said water had started to recede by a couple of inches.

Clandeboye fire Chief Ray Kelsch said he believes an ice jam is to blame for the flooding.

He said firefighters started building dikes Friday and continued to work in the dark overnight.

"It's horrendous. You're working in bad conditions first off, and you got water all around you." 

Kelsch said the last time he recalls seeing a similar amount of water in Petersfield was in 1997.

The mayor said there are about 300 homes in Petersfield, which is approximately 50 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

Bill Lakota's yard in Petersfield, Man., was full of water on Saturday. He said that he is prepared to leave if the flooding gets worse. (Samuel Rancourt/CBC)

Bill Lakota's whole yard is flooded. 

"The creek is coming right over my dike. I can't even pump my water because I got no place to pump it," he said on Saturday afternoon. 

"I have to wait until the water goes down further."

Lakota and his wife already have their bags packed and are ready to leave. He said in previous years he's been evacuated in the middle of the night and he "did not want to go through that again." 

"I think they open them, the floodway, too quickly. They should have opened them more slowly," he said.

While he is preparing for the worst, he is also hoping for the best and said he's appreciative of the help he has received. 

On Saturday afternoon, the province said the water level at James Avenue in Winnipeg rose overnight to 19.4 feet above normal winter ice levels — a measure commonly referred to as "James." That was an increase of 1.2 feet, after an upstream ice run created a flow surge downstream.

With the floodway in operation, water levels could decline to 19.0 feet James on Sunday, the province tweeted.

The Portage Diversion is limiting flows on the lower Assiniboine River to help minimize ice jamming, the province said. Major tributaries of the Assiniboine River are still rising, the province added.

Elsewhere in the province, the Red River and its tributaries are rising rapidly. There are significant increases on the Morris River, which flows under a bridge where Highway 75 leads into the town of Morris, about 60 kilometres south of Winnipeg; and the La Salle River, which is west of Winnipeg, the province said.

Water levels and flows on the Pembina River, which runs through northeastern North Dakota and southern Manitoba, are stabilizing.


​Austin Grabish is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. Since joining CBC in 2016, he's covered several major stories. Some of his career highlights have been documenting the plight of asylum seekers leaving America in the dead of winter for Canada and the 2019 manhunt for two teenage murder suspects. In 2021, he won an RTDNA Canada award for his investigative reporting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which triggered change. Have a story idea? Email: