Forest fire prompts evacuations in Red Sucker Lake First Nation

A nearby forest fire is forcing people with health concerns to flee Red Sucker Lake First Nation.

Red Cross assisting residents with health concerns to leave community for Winnipeg

A aerial photograph taken Wednesday shows smoke rising from a forest fire seven kilometres north of Red Sucker First Nation. (Government of Manitoba)

A nearby forest fire is forcing people with health concerns to flee Red Sucker Lake First Nation.

Manitoba Sustainable Development currently lists the fire, which is approximately seven kilometres north of the community, as out of control.

A forest fire near Red Sucker Lake First Nation is forcing people with health concerns to fly out of the community. (Reuben Monias/Facebook)

The blaze appears to be moving north for the time being, the province said, and was started by a human.

Fire crews, including water bombers, attacking the blaze Thursday were briefly diverted to a second fire in Gods Lake Narrows, Man. — approximately 60 kilometres to the northwest — but have since returned to the Red Sucker Lake fire.

The Canadian Red Cross said the first flights taking evacuees from the fly-in community, which is 535 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, left Thursday. About 300 Red Sucker Lake evacuees will be housed in Winnipeg hotels until they can return to Red Sucker Lake.

Shawn Feely, vice-president for Manitoba and Nunavut with the Canadian Red Cross, said the aid organization has been asked by the band council to remove people who may suffer due to poor air conditions caused by the fire.

The fire started Wednesday and as of Thursday at 4:45 p.m. the fire measured 120 hectares.

The evacuation includes both people with health problems, the elderly, babies and their caregivers, the Red Cross said.

"The smoke is blowing into the community and the leadership from the community wished to evacuate those people," Feely said.

The Canadian Red Cross has an agreement with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to handle evacuations from First Nation communities.

Feely said at this point the Red Cross does not expect to do a mass evacuation of the community, should the fire worsen, the organization is ready to transport everyone out of Red Sucker Lake.

"The Red Cross has the capacity to handle a larger evacuation, definitely," he said. "We always have a contingency plan."

This is not the first fire in recent years to threaten Red Sucker Lake. In 2015 wild fires forced 200 people to flee the remote northern community. 

Approximately 900 people live in the community, according to 2011 data from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

A map prepared by Manitoba Sustainable Development shows the fire's location in relation to Red Sucker Lake. (Manitoba government/Google Maps)

with files from The Canadian Press