‘The beauty of our land is going to be drastically changed’: Wildfire evacuees worry about community left behind

As the evacuation of Little Grand Rapids, Man. winds down residents from the community are left worried about their community.

A total of around 1100 people from Little Grand Rapids and the nearby Pauingassi First Nation had to be flown to Winnipeg due to a large wildfire burning out of control near the two communities.

As of Thursday afternoon the Canadian Red Cross said 18 people remained in Little Grand Rapids while 219 people still required transportation out of Pauingassi.

The Red Cross expected Thursday afternoon that everyone would be out of the two communities by Thursday night.

In Winnipeg, 863 of the evacuees are now being housed in hotels.

A Canadian Armed Forces Hercules aircraft and Chinook helicopter have been assisting in the evacuation.

Officials said Thursday the Chinooks are no longer needed. Smaller planes are being used to extract the remaining residents from the fire zone.

The Hercules was scheduled to make one final trip Thursday afternoon from Red Lake, Ont. to Winnipeg. Smaller planes are moving people from Pauingassi, which doesn’t have an airstrip, to Little Grand Rapids where commercial planes are now able to travel from Little Grand Rapids to Winnipeg.

Heavy smoke and ash have made it difficult for planes to land in Little Grand Rapids. Float planes have been used to get people out of the area. Some seat as few as nine people.

Little Grand Rapids residents James Eischen and his sister Theresa arrived in Winnipeg Wednesday evening after being transported to Red Lake, Ont. in a Chinook and then transported to Winnipeg on the Hercules.

Theresa said she’s relieved to be safe and away from the fire but she’s concerned about what she’ll be going back to when it’s all over.

“That our community won’t have homes to come back to or not even just homes, just the land,” said Theresa. “The beauty of our land is going to be drastically changed.”

“Right now we’re relieved to be here, we’re relieved to be safe.”

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