APTN National News
Joey Harper couldn’t help but feel helpless.
He’s one of three volunteer firefighters from Wasagamack.
The community has been evacuated because a wildfire is creeping closer every day towards the northern Manitoba First Nation.
“Sunny then all of a sudden it was just black clouds everywhere,” said Harper. “Just feel helpless up there.”
He said the fire come on fast and everyone needed to get out.
Community members have been flown to Winnipeg and Brandon.
Members from nearby St. Theresa Point and Garden hill were also forced from their homes.
In total, about 3,700 people have been evacuated.
“Crews are working on the fire line closest to the community of (Wasagamack),” said Gary Frieson, of Manitoba Evacuations. “It remains at one kilometre from the community, approximately.”
He said there’s also water bombers helping to wet down the fire line.
There have been about 500 wildfires in Manitoba this season.
And the latest fire is taking a toll and filling up hotels.
A Winnipeg even centre is now acting as an emergency shelter for nearly a third of the evacuees.
It was a last resort for the Canadian Red Cross.
“For us in Manitoba, we haven’t done this in a while. It’s kind of the last place that we look at. We always try to use commercial lodging as much as we can,” said Kim MacLean of the Red Cross.
The centre has two rooms – one for sleeping and the other for eating.
“Our main focus is on getting the people out safely, getting them here in Winnipeg and getting them settled,” said Shawn Feely of the Red Cross. “We understand that and can appreciate how scared people might be, how stressed they are. They’ve been waiting to be air lifted out and now that is coming. Today is going to be a big day, a large day for moving the evacuees.”
Many of the evacuees left with just the clothes they were wearing.
“I know I’ve seen stories of people that haven’t had clothing and didn’t have much when they arrived. We’ll be looking at assessing those needs once as I said we settle people in,” said MacLean.
“The first 24 hours, as a priority, is always around basic needs.”
The last of the evacuees are expected to arrive Friday.