Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Dry conditions are contributing to the spread of a fire in southeast Manitoba that blackened almost 200 square kilometres and was perilously close to two communities on Saturday.

The area is typically wet in October but not this year, said Duane Boutang, Reeve of the Rural Municipality of Piney.

"We had a lot of moisture over the winter, and in the spring. And then it's like the tap got turned off in June," he said in a phone interview from the municipality's emergency operations centre in Vita.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's overcast now, but it doesn't look like it's going to rain."

Coupled with strong southerly winds that reached 90 kilometres per hour on Friday, it's made the blazes burning in the region extremely tough for crews to fight.

Two villages in the municipality, Sandilands and Woodridge, were under evacuation orders on Saturday.

Mike Purtill with the Manitoba fire commissioner's office says crews have used heavy equipment to clear brush and prevent the blaze from jumping a highway and reaching Sandilands, where the fire has burned only a couple of kilometres away from the village.

Up to 400 people have been moved from the area. They're staying with friends and family, or have gone to hotels in Winnipeg.

There was good news for residents living in evacuated communities in the neighbouring Rural Municipality of Stuartburn on Saturday when they were allowed to return home after several separate fires, including the large one near Sandilands and Woodridge, threatened the area on Friday.

Mr. Purtill said the strong winds from Friday had dropped to about 30 km/h on Saturday, and a westerly flow of air was also bringing lower temperatures and higher humidity.

Story continues below advertisement

But he said no rain is forecast for the region until the middle of next week.

"It's hard to believe, but we've been dealing with a flood for the better part of spring and the summer. We still have high water," Mr. Purtill said.

"But we've had virtually no rain in southern Manitoba all summer." he added.

Mr. Purtill said there likely haven't been any major fires in the region until now because there hasn't been any severe weather, meaning there haven't been blazes sparked by lightning strikes. He said the cause of the fires isn't yet known, but speculated an ATV or a spark from power lines blowing in the wind may be responsible.

Fires burned in two other parts of Manitoba on Saturday. One was in an area popular with cottagers northeast of Winnipeg. The blaze burned 180 square kilometres and was about six kilometres from Bissett, Man. on Saturday.

The other was in Riding Mountain National Park in western Manitoba, which the province says began when Parks Canada was conducting a controlled burn that became out-of-control.

Story continues below advertisement

The Manitoba government says eight firefighters from Ontario and 21 from B.C. were helping to battle the blaze near Bissett.

Eight new fires started since Friday, the province said.

Numerous highways in the Manitoba are closed. An eastbound section of the Trans-Canada Highway were also reduced to one lane due to the fire east of Winnipeg.

"We have ground crews that are doing structure protection and we have air support in the sky being the big eye and giving us the overall picture and showing us where we need to be, and what our values of threat are," Mr. Purtill said.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies