Manitoba

Crews manage to keep wildfires from spreading in southeastern Manitoba

Firefighters have managed to contain a large wildfire in southeastern Manitoba before it could spread further, but are still working on putting out hot spots in the area. 

Firefighters still challenged by extremely dry conditions

The wildfire near Toniata in southeast Manitoba was at an estimated 80 hectares as of late Wednesday. Crews have since knocked it down to about 50 hectares, says the head of Manitoba Wildfire Service. (Still image from video submitted by Woody Smith)

Firefighters have managed to contain a large wildfire in southeastern Manitoba before it could spread further, but are still working on putting out hot spots in the area. 

On Thursday, a blaze in the southern part of Whiteshell Provincial Park, near the community of Toniata on the northern shore of Falcon Lake, was about 80 hectares — or about 198 acres — according to an email from the provincial government. 

Since then, crews have managed to knock the fire down to 50 hectares, or about 123 acres, and are making progress on extinguishing it, said Dave Schafer, director of the Manitoba Wildfire Service.

"But they will be challenged once again today with the warmer temperatures and lower relative humidities," he said. 

The fire damaged about a half dozen trailers and RVs being kept in a storage compound, but no other properties were damaged, he said. 

Crews have also managed to contain a wildfire near the RM of Piney in southeast Manitoba that started last weekend. Schafer said crews will likely be there for a couple more days to put out hot spots but said the blaze is under control. 

Campfires banned, trails closed

The province announced Thursday it was banning campfires and backcountry camping while also closing several trails due to the risk of wildfires.

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

The province has banned campfires in much of the province due to wildfire risk. (Submitted by Shirley Taylor)

Schafer said the campfire ban applies to all campground sites in the restricted areas. 

With conditions so dry in Manitoba this year, the province doesn't want to risk any human-caused fires, he said. The restrictions are also meant to keep people out of harm's way if a wildfire were to start close to where they were hiking or backcountry camping, he said. 

"With the backcountry trails that people would be travelling on, if a fire does spread, it allows our resources to focus on a suppression effort and not on an unnecessary rescue effort," he said. 

"So it's keeping people out of harm's way, keeping them out of those areas where there is the potential for a fire to be caused depending on their actions."

He says he thinks the restrictions will be in place for at least another week, depending on whether Manitoba sees much precipitation. 

Closures tough for hikers

The news is disappointing to hiking enthusiasts but understandable given how dry conditions have been this year, said Jaime Manness, the founder of Hike Manitoba.

While she wasn't surprised by the closures, she's never seen this many trails closed at one time before.

"I think this is going to be a tough one for Manitobans who feel like outdoors is all they have left right now with all the shutdowns, but now's the time to explore some city parks," she said. 

Tim Stevens was at Birds Hill Provincial Park today using one of just two trails that remain open.

"For myself, it doesn't affect me because I generally don't use those trails unless it's for cross-country skiing in the winter time, but I'm sure it puts a damper on it for some people."

The restrictions apply to 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.

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

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

Firefighters still challenged by extremely dry conditions in southeastern Manitoba

1 year ago
Duration 2:13
Firefighters have managed to contain a large wildfire in southeastern Manitoba before it could spread further, but are still working on putting out hot spots in the area.

With files from Holly Caruk

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