NORTH CYPRESS-LANGFORD CHURCH – Flames hit several homes within striking distance, but none were lost in a grass fire in the Camp Hughes area.
The Carberry North Cypress-Langford Fire Department was called to the area several kilometers west of Carberry south of the Trans-Canada Highway, also known as the Dane Subdivision, at around 2:07 p.m.
Viktor Prudnikov, who lives on Amanda’s Way, said he came home around 4 p.m. to find his family during the evacuation.
It found they were among about 30 households in the area that were evacuated from the neighborhood that afternoon.
The fire spread so quickly due to high winds that they didn’t have time to save anything – an endeavor that, according to Prudnikov, would also have been hampered by a thick cloud of smoke that covered the neighborhood and blocked visibility.
However, they were looking for a neighbor on their way out of the area but they had already left.
Although the flame severed their lawn and scorched a storage container, the family reported no damage.
Local residents Jan and Sig Eriksson shared a similar story. Sig described the smoke as so dense “that it was like a white-out in a blizzard”.
The cloud of smoke crossed the Trans-Canada Highway and could be seen from Brandon.
In a written statement, the Carberry North Cypress-Langford Fire Department describes the flame as being fast moving and fueled by strong winds, dry conditions and tall grass.
The department reports that they immediately activated mutual aid, calling multiple watercraft from local farmers and Hutterite colonies, and confiscating tractors, discs and a scraper.
The fire soon jumped the CP rails north towards the Dane subdivision, where the crews managed to spare several houses in close proximity to the fire. In the end, the property damage was limited to a garden shed and the siding of an adjacent house.
Within hours after the fire was first discovered, residents were evacuated and instructed to log on to the Carberry Rink.
While the main fire was slowing down, a second call came in at 7:38 p.m. forcing the division to send six trucks on a suspicious fire that was quickly contained. After about 20 minutes, the trucks returned to the Dane subdivision to further clear the hot spots.
The evacuees were allowed to return to their homes at 8:30 p.m., while the department members stayed on site until about 11 p.m. to monitor the houses and put out small brush fires.
Firefighters returned Friday morning to monitor the scene throughout the day, clearing several hotspots in the process.
Throughout this stressful ordeal, Sig Eriksson said emergency personnel – firefighters, RCMP and the community emergency group – were “courteous, professional and cooperative”.
“It was all done professionally,” he said, adding that whenever it was reasonable for them they would answer his questions and even call him at 8:30 pm to let him know they were allowed to return to his house. They kept a detailed inventory of the evacuees and were a well-organized operation. He said, “Well done.”
Although the Carberry North Cypress-Langford Fire Department reports that the investigation of the fire is ongoing, they believe it was started by an ATV.
As such, they note, “Given the extremely dry conditions, we strongly recommend that you do not drive off-road anywhere in North-Cypress Langford parish.”
A fire ban has been in effect in the community since March 19.
The department also urges employees to turn on all lawn sprinklers, clean up debris, clean gutters, and not stack wood on or near buildings.
Lookie-loos proved problematic during the fire, and the department urges the public to avoid the scenes of emergency situations.
“The smoke was so thick it was difficult for first responders to see, and the situation was made worse by additional traffic from bystanders who had nothing to do with attending the scene.”
Extinguishing the fire was no small undertaking. The Carberry North Cypress-Langford Fire Department thanked the neighboring departments of Shilo, Glenboro, Wawanesa and Elton for their help along with police and government agencies.
Several Hutterite colonies and farmers provided tractors and equipment, while several companies and industries within the community donated food and drink.
“[email protected], with files from Drew May