Out of control wildfire prompts Pine Creek First Nation to declare state of emergency

By | May 20, 2020

Pine Creek First Nation has declared a state of emergency as a large wildfire continues to burn near the community, fought by crews on the ground and in the air.

Chief Karen Batson of Pine Creek confirmed the state of emergency was declared this morning via text message.

Batson said in a text on Tuesday that a new fire was threatening a nearby church, cemetery and homes in the area.

A fire map on the provinces’ website, last updated Tuesday, shows an “out of control” fire spanning 10,000 hectares is actively burning in the area north of Dauphin, Man.

Chief Karen Batson said fire threatened a nearby church, cemetery and homes in Pine Creek First Nation on Tuesday. (Submitted by Karen Batson/Pine Creek First Nation)

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said “out of control wildfires” prompted chief and council of the tiny community to escalate the situation.

“This state of emergency is undertaken as we all deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a post on the AMC’s Facebook page.

Fire forced more than 100 residents from Pine Creek from their homes on Sunday. They were allowed to return on Monday.

A curfew between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. has also been put in place. 

Pine Creek is located about 300 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, and about 90 kilometres east of Swan River. 

Manitoba Hydro wrote in a tweet that crews in the Swan River region are helping to replace 11 hydro poles damaged by wildfires to “keep power flowing to the nearby communities of Camperville, Pine Creek First Nation and Duck Bay.”

The Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team will be assisting through its systems of coordination and communication, according to AMC.

In an emailed statement, a government spokesperson said the state of local emergency does not mean an evacuation order and that it is only administrative.

The spokesperson said the fire grew minimally since Tuesday, although the warm, windy weather is concerning. Firefighting crews have set up sprinklers on a number of homes around Provincial Road 272 to the north side of the fire.

Families from 14 homes self-evacuated to stay with friends and family members in the area, the province said. The fire was held back and their homes were not damaged.

Water bombers and helicopters are continuing to support ground crews as the fire is still considered out of control, according to the provincial spokesperson.

The province’s fire report shows there are currently nine active fires across Manitoba.

‘Up in smoke’

The mayor of Camperville, Man., located just south of Pine Creek, said Wednesday the fire situation has been “touch and go” for the past few days.

“The place is just up in smoke,” said Sonny Klyne, who is also safety officer for the town’s volunteer fire department.

As the only fire department in the area, he said they have an agreement to respond to fires in Pine Creek and other northern First Nations and communities around Duck Bay. When reached by phone late-Wednesday afternoon, he said his crew had just returned from dealing with burning hydro poles west of town.

“It’s just been crazy and the winds are so high, it’s extremely dangerous,” he said.

“They’re just at the back doors,” Klyne said about flames edging toward homes. Up to 20 volunteers are assisting the Camperville squad, which he said is limited in its ability to respond to wildland fires because they are only geared to fight residential and property fires.

The orange glow of fire and smoke north of Dauphin, Man. (Manitoba Hydro/Twitter)

Facilities in town have been temporarily closed down due to COVID-19. Klyne said they opened up the community hall a couple of days ago so residents fleeing from Duck Bay and Pine Creek could seek refuge there as needed.

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