WINNIPEG- Four First Nations in Manitoba have been evacuated due to wildfires in the eastern part of the province.
More than 1,000 people from Pauingassi, Little Grand Rapids, Bloodvein and Berens River First Nations have been sent to Winnipeg with the help of the Canadian Red Cross.
A spokesperson for the Red Cross said a full evacuation of Pauingassi and Little Grand Rapids was completed Monday, while similar efforts in Bloodvein and Berens River were continuing.
Bloodvein band member Virginia Thomas said about 150 residents were loaded into school buses Monday for transport to Winnipeg, about 250 kilometres away.
“This is the first time Bloodvein experienced anything like that,” she said. “We’re trying our best to keep our people comfortable while they’re here.”
Thomas said she has been helping to co-ordinate accommodations for members while they are in the city and expects another 900 evacuees throughout the day.
The community, she said, is worried about how the fires and smoke will affect the land and animals.
“To think about the animals suffering in the smoke, that really touches us as Anishinaabe people. That is our strength, we learn from those animals,” she said. “It’s been very emotional for us.”
There are more than 120 fires burning in the province after weeks of hot, dry weather.
The fires are also contributing to smoky conditions throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Environment Canada has issued alerts for much of both provinces, noting smoke from wildfires in northern Saskatchewan is producing poor air quality.
In addition, the federal agency says on its website that east winds have brought smoke from fires in northwestern Ontario into Manitoba, while smoke from fires in eastern Manitoba is being pushed into Saskatchewan.
Officials say that smoke will likely persist all day but start clearing out Wednesday or Thursday as the winds shift.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2021.