3 Manitoba wildfires converge into one as suppression efforts east of Bloodvein First Nation continue

Despite recent smatterings of rain in parts of the province, the number of wildfires in Manitoba continues to grow — including three that have morphed into one giant fire east of Lake Winnipeg.

10 new fires since Monday include blaze near Katimik Lake between lakes Winnipeg and Winnipegosis

A wildfire tears through trees near Bloodvein First Nation. The community was evacuated last week and has no sense of when they'll be able to return home. (Submitted by Ryan Klassen)

Despite recent smatterings of rain in parts of the province, the number of wildfires in Manitoba continues to grow — including three that have morphed into one giant fire east of Lake Winnipeg.

Fire suppression crews were focused on one large fire north of Bissett, near Bloodvein First Nation, on Tuesday.

That fire used to be three but recently turned into one big blaze that is considered out of control.

"It does end up requiring more resources to secure a perimeter around the fire just due to its size," said Don Hallett, assistant director of Manitoba Wildfire Service.

"But at the same point, it also allows us to have a focused effort on one fire instead of several fires, all at the same time in the same location."

Drought conditions have contributed to Manitoba's growing wildfire woes. 

There are 137 active wildfires in the province. Ten new fires were identified Monday — half of them in the east, half in the north — including one between lakes Winnipegosis and Winnipeg.

This fire near Katimik Lake, west of Lake Winnipeg and east of Lake Winnipegosis, is one of 10 new fires as of Monday, according to the provincial wildfire service. (Submitted by Manitoba Government)

The province said half a dozen First Nations have been evacuated.

Some evacuees from Red Sucker Lake First Nation were allowed to return Monday. More than 2,000 remain stuck away from their homes of Pauingassi, Little Grand Rapids, Berens River and Bloodvein First Nations.

The province sent a specialized crew this week to douse the west side of the large fire nearest to Bloodvein. Logistics experts and medics are part of the team.

"We continue to try and work the flanks of the fire where it's safe to do so and establish fire lines," said Hallet. "We bring in our water bombers to knock down the fire and then put personnel into an area to hold that line that we've established and start putting the fire out."

Even though the power is back on in Bloodvein, band councillor Ellen Young said smoke in the area remains thick. 

Fire suppression efforts continued Tuesday east of Bloodvein First Nation, where three fires converged into one. (Manitoba Wildfire Service)

That remains the reason why hers and at least three other communities have been evacuated.

If the fire grows near, Young said the community is prepared. The province has equipped those on the ground in Bloodvein with hoses to water down homes if need be, she said.

"We do have a river right in front of us, which is a barrier, but there is still that concern of the fire," said Young. "With all these protections in there … we're ready. Hopefully we won't need to use them."

The latest Manitoba fire bulletin said fire danger remained moderate to extreme provincewide Tuesday, but no communities were immediately at risk.

There are 22 helicopters, 11 water bombers and 154 extra firefighters from out of province helping to battle the dozens of active fires in the province, according to the bulletin.

That includes Parks Canada and military personnel, and two 20-person crews from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick respectively, said Hallett. Manitoba is also hoping to bring in another 20 to 40 firefighters from Quebec.

"We share these types of resources between the provinces where and when we can," said Hallett. "We've been lucky enough to have help from our eastern province partners."

Air quality reports are available on the Environment Canada website.

Updates on Manitoba wildfires are available on the provincial website.