More than 80 soldiers deployed to help fight Manitoba wildfires

The Canadian military deployed 86 soldiers from its Shilo base Friday morning to help fight forest fires in eastern Manitoba. 

The soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were deployed to Sherridon, Nopiming, Gypsumville and Swan River. 

Commanding officer Lt.-Col Jesse Van Eijk says their main tasks will be to clean up hot spots and patrol the areas around them to free up more proficient firefighters from Manitoba Wildfire Service to tackle the more intense fires. 

“That’s just giving them more capacity to deal with the situation as it develops,” he said. 

Soldiers underwent training over the last week at the Shilo base to prepare them for the operation, he said. 

It’s not the first time the military has been called in to help fight fires, so it’s something they’re prepared for, van Eijk said. 

“Although it’s got an element of risk to it, it’s also exciting. It’s what they signed onto the army to do. They want to go out there and do good things.”

The Canadian Armed Forces has committed 120 personnel in total to help with firefighting efforts in the province, all of whom are from the Shilo base. 

“This is pretty personal for the soldiers from Shilo, too,” van Eijk said. 

Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry load supplies prior to departing. (MCpl HJL MacRae)

“We know there’s Canadians having a pretty rough time out there and the guys are really happy to get out there and help out.”

The military is expected to be helping with firefighting efforts until at least Aug. 10. 

Another First Nation evacuated 

As of Friday morning, there were 131 active wildfires in Manitoba. 

There are now six First Nations and three Northern Affairs communities that have had to be evacuated as a result, the province said in news release Friday. Northern Affairs communities are adjacent to First Nations and include Métis, First Nations and non-Indigenous people. 

Berens River First Nation firefighters Cody and Brody Baptiste are battling the blaze near their homes. (Submitted by Percy Swain)

Close to 2,300 evacuees have been flown to Winnipeg and Brandon, where they are staying in hotels. 

There is no immediate threat to these communities but smoke continues to pose a health and safety risk, the news release says. 

In addition to the military, the province says firefighters have arrived from Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Parks Canada to help. 

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