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Fire evacuees breathe easier after arriving in Winnipeg

Dozens of people forced to leave two Manitoba First Nation communities affected by forest fire smoke have begun arriving in Winnipeg.

Allan Pascal, 68, was one of about 200 people — including babies, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems — who were prioritized for removal from the remote communities of Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi in east-central Manitoba.

The Canadian Red Cross is assisting them as they arrive at Winnipeg hotels. Air conditions are poor due to fires burning in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario.

Pascal said he was thankful to be out of the heavy smoke, but the call for him to leave came as a bit of a surprise.

“I was going to go back to bed. Must’ve been about 7 o’clock this morning, there was a knock at my door,” Pascal said. “And I don’t know about anything. And they just said, ‘I think you have to leave.'”

Tess Quinn left Little Grand Rapids with her seven-month-old, Owen.

Coming to Winnipeg has her breathing a sigh of relief — for both of them.

“It’s really good to not have to worry about what he’s breathing in,” said Quinn. “We just kept him inside with doors closed, windows closed,” she said.

Quinn was also forced to leave last summer when the wildfire threat loomed large in Little Grand Rapids.

“I was pregnant with him during the last fire evacuation, so we kind of knew what to do already.”

Province lists ‘areas of concern’

The province said in a statement there are 21 active wildfires in Manitoba, with “areas of concern” east of Lake Winnipeg and the Island Lake region.

There was a chance Sunday of scattered rain showers or thundershowers later in the day and more showers expected Monday.

Manitoba fire crews are focusing their attention on two communities: Little Grand Rapids and Red Sucker Lake, the province said.

As well, two large fires are burning in a remote area between the communities of Poplar River and Island Lake.

“These fires are not threatening any communities,” a provincial spokesperson said in an email.

Sixteen helicopters, six water bombers and 66 emergency firefighters are helping regular Manitoba Wildfire Program staff.

Sixty-four firefighters from Saskatchewan and Quebec are deployed at various locations across Manitoba’s eastern region, the spokesperson said.


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