Southern Manitoba grass fires prompt evacuations

Two southern Manitoba communities were evacuated on Tuesday due to grass fires fuelled by strong winds, but residents of one town have been allowed to return home.

Many residents of Vita allowed to return to their homes

A fire truck on the highway near Vita, Man., where a grass fire has prompted officials to impose an evacuation order on Tuesday afternoon. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

Two southern Manitoba communities were evacuated on Tuesday due to grass fires fuelled by strong winds and dry conditions, but residents of one town have been allowed to return home.

An evacuation order was issued early Tuesday afternoon for the town of Vita, located about 100 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.

Residents were told to leave their homes and go to the nearby city of Steinbach, as a grass fire that started in the southwest corner of the community was being pushed towards the town by high winds.

But by 6 p.m. CT, Reeve Jim Swidersky of the Rural Municipality of Stuartburn announced that Vita residents could return to their homes.

"It's a wildfire with the high winds that came south of town, just as fast as the winds blew it up, just as fast as we got the residents out of town," Swidersky told CBC News earlier in the afternoon.

Four homes were lost in the fire, including one in town and three in the nearby rural area, the CBC's Ryan Hicks reported from Vita on Tuesday evening.

The fire also destroyed the local bridge on Highway 201.

About 20 families with homes to the southeast of the community still are not allowed to return, Hicks said.

The local school and a seniors' home were evacuated, and some area roads were closed, including Highway 503 five kilometres west of Highway 216, and Highway 201 from highways 59 to 302.

While most people in Vita complied with the evacuation order on Tuesday, two motorists tried to cross the burning bridge to get into town. One of the vehicles actually drove into the void left by the burnt-out span.

Safety officials got both women out of their cars and transported them to a nearby hospital to be checked out.

Homes evacuated in Ross

An evacuation order remains in effect Tuesday in Ross, Man., where 50 homes were evacuated due to a brush fire near that community.

About 200 residents have been displaced as a result of the evacuation order, said Mayor William Danylchuk of the Rural Municipality of Taché.

A road sign was blown across Highway 59 south on Tuesday. (Angela Johnston/CBC)

Danylchuk said forestry personnel and firefighters are currently in Ross, and water bombers were expected to arrive to help with firefighting efforts.

Meanwhile, a brush fire burning northeast of St. Malo, Man., off Highway 403 was brought under control on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Rural Municipality of de Salaberry.

The Manitoba government says hot, dry conditions and strong winds have been fuelling grass and brush fires near the communities of Vita, St. Malo, Richer and Milner Ridge.

The province said it has dispatched three water bombers to assist with firefighting efforts in Vita and Richer, and two water bombers were flying in from Ontario to help out.

Officials with the Rural Municipality of Ste. Anne told CBC News no evacuations were being planned in Richer.

Provincial and municipal staff have also been working with the municipalities of Grahamdale and St. Laurent to address grass fires in those areas, the province said in a release.

Loudoun Road wildfire reignited

Winds gusting up to 85 km/h on Tuesday reignited a grass fire in Winnipeg's Charleswood area, south of Assiniboine Forest.

Highway 403 is closed to traffic at Highway 216 due to poor visibility in heavy smoke. (Angela Johnston/CBC)

The fire near Loudoun Road started on Sunday and was brought under control by Monday, but it flared up again on Tuesday into something much larger and more threatening to area homes.

The strong winds also sparked a nearby blaze in the 1400 block of Charleswood Road.

Dark smoke from the fires has been blowing around the area and across much of the city.

Some residents on Loudoun were forced to soak down trees and grass on their property to prevent the spread of the flames.

A City of Winnipeg spokesperson said there are several dozen firefighters and seven pump trucks at the Loudoun Road fire.

Some residents on Loudoun Road are soaking down trees and grass on their property. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)