Lack of cell service heats up in deep south

While fire crews battled a raging wildfire threatening the community on October 2, the driver of one vehicle attempted to leave Vita only to have the bridge collapse beneath them. A second car joined the mess before crews had a chance to block the bridge to protect traffic. Minor injuries were reported.

By Marianne Curtis

When the Dawson Trail Dispatch hit the streets in October it was obvious we had a major problem. Miles and miles of fires, followed by several days of power outages after a snow storm blew through the region pushing southern municipalities to the breaking point.

RM of Stuartburn Reeve Jim Swidersky is once again pleading with the government to step in and connect the area to a reliable communication source.

“The south eastern part of Manitoba contains vast areas that completely lack service, or receive such weak, intermittent service that one cannot make a phone call,” stated the reeve.

This is becoming an integral argument after the emergency Fleetnet System failed while the municipality was dealing with fires at the beginning of October. This is the second time this has happened in the area during the height of a crisis.

The province uses and promotes the MTS Fleetnet Network as the emergency communication system for fire, police and emergency personnel, noted the reeve.

“During the fires, the Fleetnet system was not working for any emergency personnel,” Swidersky confirmed. “Cellular phone service has become an essential service to the general population and is extremely important in emergency situations.”

Within hours of having difficulty communicating with emergency crews, the crisis hit a new high when a snow storm killed power to thousands of residents leaving most homes with no way to communicate.

The RM of Stuartburn is demanding the province, MTS and local government services take immediate steps to provide southern Manitoba with reliable emergency services through the Fleetnet and improved cellular service.

“We’ve been lucky so far – we haven’t lost anyone yet,” stressed Swidersky. “But eventually our luck is going to run out.”


Council grateful for assistance

The RM of Stuartburn would like to issue a very special thank you to the many people that came to the community’s assistance when fires raged through the community earlier this month.

“We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who worked to save lives and buildings during the October 2 fire,” stated RM of Stuartburn reeve Jim Swidersky. “We especially want to recognize certain groups and individuals.”

The municipality extended appreciation to the RM of Stuartburn Fire Department along with the Town of Emerson, RM of Piney, La Broquerie and Franklin Fire Departments.

The RM of Stuartburn would also like to thank the RCMP, EMO, the fire commission, Manitoba Conservation and Manitoba Hydro. The municipality also thanked a number of contractors and local businesses, and individuals who all stepped forward during the community wide crisis.


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