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Arson charges laid in wildfire that forced evacuations of eastern Manitoba First Nations

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A water bomber heads toward a wildfire near Pauingassi First Nation in Manitoba in May 2018. (CBC) Three people face arson charges in connection with a massive wildfire that forced the evacuation of thousands of people from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nations last year. The fire started […]


A water bomber heads toward a wildfire near Pauingassi First Nation in Manitoba in May 2018. (CBC)

Three people face arson charges in connection with a massive wildfire that forced the evacuation of thousands of people from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nations last year.

The fire started on May 21, 2018, and officials quickly determined it had been caused by people. The evacuations lasted for more than a month as the fire burned 32,000 hectares of forest in Manitoba and Ontario.

It damaged six homes in Little Grand Rapids, along with a one-kilometre section of Hydro line, a substation, a warehouse in Little Grand Rapids, 15 buildings at Moar Lake Lodge and five buildings at Fishing Lake Lodge.

The total cost of fighting the fire is estimated at $1.8 million. No estimate of the cost of damages was provided.

When fire crews first responded to the fire around midday on May 21, it was less than one hectare in size, but strong winds blew the fire into a section of forest with taller trees and the flames began to spread across the canopy, quickly growing out of control.

Hundreds of residents in Little Grand Rapids — a community along the shore of Family Lake in eastern Manitoba near the Ontario border — crowded into a hot school gymnasium overnight while they waited for planes to fly them out.

Two men — a 19-year-old from Little Grand Rapids and a 20-year-old from Pikangikum, Ont. — and a youth who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act have been charged with arson and leaving a place without ensuring the fire is out.

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