By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
More than 100 members from the Canadian Forces are deployed throughout Manitoba to assist in fighting wildfires in the province.
Four teams, each with 21 soldiers, were sent to four different locations on the weekend. Another team of 21 is expected to arrive in northwestern Manitoba by the end of Tuesday, Lt.-Col. Jesse van Eijk said Monday.
The soldiers are assisting crews from the province in monitoring wildfires in Sherridon, Nopiming, Gympsumville and Swan River.
“Most of them are actually camping along the fire lines overnight. During the day, they walk the fire line and check for any areas where there’s flare ups or hot spots, and they suppress those,” said van Eijk.
The federal government previously committed to sending up to 120 members as the number of wildfires grows in Manitoba.
While van Eijk is familiar with this type of work because he helped with the Saskatchewan fires in 2015, he said it’s rare for the army to help with wildfires in Manitoba.
“It’s been an exceptional year, ” he said.
A dry, hot summer season and climate change has resulted in devastating wildfires across Western Canada.
Military crews are also helping with wildfires in British Columbia.
The Manitoba government said the number of fires so far this year is slightly above average.
“We have a total of 351 fires for this year, whereas our normal average is about 322,” said Don Hallett, assistant director of Manitoba Wildfire Service.
There are currently about 130 active wildfires in the province, with about two dozen considered out of control.
More than 2,500 members from five First Nations had to leave their communities last week due to smoke and wildfires.
Residents from Red Sucker Lake First Nation, in northeastern Manitoba, are expected to return home by Tuesday, according to a news release from the Canadian Red Cross.
People from Pauingassi, Little Grand Rapids, Bloodvein and Berens River First Nations are still out of their homes, staying in hotels in Brandon and Winnipeg. There is no timeline for when they will be allowed to go home.
Hallett said there’s no immediate threat of fires reaching communities at this time, noting “it’s predominantly the smoke issues that are causing issues.”
He added damage to hydro lines near Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi means those communities are without power.
Workers continue to assess how safe it is for Manitoba Hydro employees to go in and repair the lines.
“We continue to prioritize the fires across the province to try (to) ensure that we put personnel and resources on to those fires that we believe are going to have a direct impact on communities and people,” said Hallett.
Groups from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are also helping with wildfire suppression in the province.