Supporting families affected by wildfires

Topics: Manitoba
June 01, 2018

When wildfires threatened the safety and security of his community in May 2018, requiring a rapid evacuation, Little Grand Rapids First Nation Councillor Clinton Keeper was grateful for the support of the Canadian Red Cross.

“Red Cross has been really nice to us since the beginning of the evacuation,” said Keeper.

The response began by transporting more than 1,000 residents out of Little Grand Rapids on nine-passenger capacity airplanes. Helicopters were also used because of the small size of the community’s airstrip.

By coordinating nearly 100 flights over a three-day span, the Red Cross was able to move the entire community to Winnipeg, where they would stay for more than five weeks, until it was safe for residents to return home.

The residents of Little Grand Rapids, along with the residents of neighbouring Pauingassi First Nation, who had been evacuated simultaneously, stayed in hotels throughout Winnipeg. Evacuees received food and vouchers for clothing and other necessary items.

Keeper was impressed with the ability of the Red Cross team to deal with any problems that arose. “If we had an issue with something, it was dealt with immediately. They were very accommodating in meeting the needs of the First Nation,” he said.

Agile and flexible responses were crucial during this evacuation. For the first time, the Red Cross coordinated the replacement of fridges and freezers in Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi and Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, which had also been evacuated due to wildfires. Because the power was off for an extended period of time, the fridges and freezers were compromised and needed replacement.

The residents of Little Grand Rapids were able to return home at the end of June. Those flights and the steps required to get people back to the community were also orchestrated by the Red Cross team.

Throughout the whole response, Keeper was impressed by the commitment and dedication of the Red Cross team which he witnessed firsthand at the Red Cross emergency operations centre. “They did a remarkable job,” said Keeper.

Evacuees from Little Grand Rapids Frist Nation boarding planes
Evacuees from Little Grand Rapids Frist Nation boarding planes.
Cousins from Pauingassi First Nation before boarding a flight home
Cousins from Pauingassi First Nation before boarding a flight home.

Helicopters delivering refrigerators and freezers
Helicopters delivering refrigerators and freezers.

Manitoba 2018-2019 Report Back to Communities
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