By Marianne Curtis
Many southeast residents spent Thanksgiving weekend grateful for their lives after a number of forest fires forced evacuations region wide.
Evacuation orders started rolling in October 5, starting with the RM of Stuartburn when an out of control grass fire forced fifty residents to leave their homes to seek safety in Vita. In a matter of a day smoke smothered the area from fires burning out of control near Gardenton, Stuartburn, Sundown, Piney, Sandilands, Marchand, La Broquerie and Pansy.
In the RM of Stuartburn, approximately 160 people were evacuated along with approximately 100 people from Lonesand and Caliento north to Zhoda and PTH 12. In the RM of La Broquerie, approximately 350 people from the Marchand were evacuated. In the RM of Piney, approximately 300 to 400 people were evacuated from the Sandilands and Woodridge areas. In the RM of Hanover, residents from Pansy were evacuated to Grunthal.
Catherine Wiens and her family was one of many that were forced to find a safe place to stay in Steinbach after being told to leave their Marchand home.
“I didn’t think the fire was that bad, I saw the fire and the smoke and but a couple hours later someone knocked on the door – I couldn’t believe it,” recalled Wiens. “There was not a real sense of panic but the scariest part was being in Steinbach and not knowing what was going on and then reading facebook or twitter updates from people saying the town burned down – that was the worst.”
Wiens added that she was grateful for the way the RM of La Broquerie handled the situation.
“Even though it was a rush, they were very organized – they even marked the homes that they’d already told to evacuate,” Wiens noted. “We had to register in La Broquerie and many of the families were forced to leave during supper so it was nice that they even had food set up for us.”
Acting Manitoba fire commissioner Dave Schafer says about 75 firefighters from at least 8 departments worked on the fires non-stop over a few days before everything could be declared under control. Water bombers were also called in to help contain the blaze.
Smoke rises over Marchand a few hours before the town is evaculated as an out of control forest fire threatens the community.