Lightning strikes add 7 more forest fires

Lightning has sparked forest fires across the province as wooded areas are drying out due to high temperatures.

Seven new forest fires started in Manitoba on Saturday, including four in the northeast part of the province and two in the area of Bloodvein First Nation, all of which were started by lightning.

Tom Mirus, Manitoba Conservation's fire program manager, said another forest fire near Woodridge in Southeast Manitoba was human-caused. It's not clear exactly how the blaze started.

In total, 66 forest fires were burning in Manitoba yesterday, including one near Baril Lake about 120 kilomtres east of The Pas that's threatening millions of dollars worth of timber being cut by Tolko Industries. The fire began about a week ago and is now 3,000 hectares in size.

More than 200 firefighters and other workers are battling the blaze along with seven helicopters, four water bombers, four single-engine air tankers and 28 pieces of heavy equipment.

"That's our busiest fire by far, and our most concerning right now," said Mirius. "We're really battling that one. It's an extremely valuable wood supply."

The fire south of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin First Nation about 850 km north of Winnipeg has reached an estimated 88,000 hectares in size but is not considered a direct threat to the community.

RECENT RAINFALL

Recent rainfall in the area has helped the situation, the province said.

Meanwhile, a fire south of Sayisi Dene First Nation at Tadoule Lake is roughly 2 km from the community but Mirus said the blaze has been stopped.

"We feel we have that fire secure and we're working towards the inside of the fire now," he said. "If there's going to be any issues it will simply be smoke. That fire will not spread towards the community any more, we believe."

Another fire at Hughes Lake east of Lynn Lake has reached 4,000 hectares in size but Mirus said cottages in the area are now out of danger.

With the forecast calling for scorching temperatures today and tomorrow, Mirus said the forest fire situation could become extremely dangerous.

"It's going to be very hot, to say the least," he said. "We're getting rain but it's scattered. And along with the scattered rain showers come thundershowers and lightning."

WINNIPEG SUN - to see article

BY ADAM CLAYTON, SUN MEDIA