Smoke prompts officials in northern Manitoba to evacuate another 1,500

WINNIPEG – Smoke from a northern Manitoba wildfire has prompted officials with the Garden Hill First Nation to move another 1,500 people to Winnipeg.

Jason Small with the Red Cross says the evacuation is on top of the more than 3,500 people from the area who have already left.

Small says the decision was made by the leadership of Garden Hill in consultation with the federal government.

The evacuations will be done Saturday and Sunday by military Hercules transport aircraft as well as several smaller chartered planes.

The Manitoba government tweeted Saturday that the fire near Wasagamack, St. Theresa Point and Garden Hill now covers 28,000 hectares and that rain overnight had little effect on the flames.

Small says the earlier evacuees had more serious health issues, but the ones leaving now still have health concerns.

“This group is not the people with the highest priority health issues, but they still have health concerns and health needs that need to be thought about, especially with the smoke in the area,” Small said Saturday.

On Friday the fire was about one kilometre from Wasagamack and crews were working to keep it from advancing.

The government says about 400 firefighters, nine water bombers and 21 other aircraft are battling the fire.

More than 1,000 cots were set up Thursday inside the Winnipeg Convention Centre and a second shelter for another 900 people opened Friday at an indoor soccer complex.

Small said some of the evacuees this weekend will be brought to those centres. But he said some will go elsewhere.

“We’ve had more hotel rooms open up and we’ve had a lot of people who were here also decide to go with family and friends,” Small said.

Residents began leaving their homes Tuesday night, with most making their way to Winnipeg and Brandon.

A further 850 people also left the Poplar River First Nation earlier in the week.

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