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Fire update, May 14: Evacuations continue, Ontario crews arrive, Flin Flon internet back on

The fire burning between Cranberry Portage and Flin Flon raged on Tuesday, but more and more resources are being used to hold it at bay.
The WE010 fire, as seen from the Bakers Narrows tower May 11. The fire is, as of May 14, over 31,600 hectares in size.

The fire burning between Cranberry Portage and Flin Flon raged on Tuesday, but more and more resources are being used to hold it at bay.

The WE010 fire (as it has been named by the Manitoba Wildfire Service) has grown to over 31,600 hectares in size, going across a vast stretch of forest from Wabishkok Lake in the north into Grass River Provincial Park in the south. Fire crews continue to battle the blaze, using firefighters from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and now from Ontario, where five crews of firefighters have now arrived to fight the fire. Crews from Quebec and potentially other provinces may also be on the way later this week.

According to the Manitoba Wildfire Service, seven helicopters and six waterbombers are being used on the WE010 fire and the WE011 fire, which is burning within three kilometres of Wanless. Both fires are officially classified as "out of control" by the Manitoba Wildfire Service.

Evacuation orders are still in place for Cranberry Portage, as well as several cabin areas including Bakers Narrows, Schist Lake North, Sourdough Bay, Twin Lakes and Whitefish Lake. Bakers Narrows Provincial Park has also been evacuated. At its closest, the fire is less than a kilometre and a half away from Cranberry Portage, nearing the north side of town.

Evacuees in Flin Flon are asked to register at an emergency control centre at the Victoria Inn - evacuees in The Pas are asked to register at another control centre, set up at the Wescana Inn.

Over a thousand residents in total - around between 500 and 600 from Cranberry Portage and about 550 from cabin subdivision areas - have been displaced due to the fire. Members of the Cranberry Portage Volunteer Fire Department have stayed behind to help fight the blaze - members of the Flin Flon Fire Department, The Pas Fire Department and with Vale in Thompson, among other agencies, have also come in to help.

Some properties at cabin areas between Cranberry Portage and Flin Flon have been lost - no estimates for how many properties or total damages have yet been announced.

Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach are not in imminent danger from the fire and no evacuation orders are in effect for any of the three communities. At its closest point, the fire is now about 13 kilometres away from Flin Flon, with both Big Island Lake and Trout Lake forming a possible firebreak between the town and the blaze.

Manitoba Highway 10 was closed due to the fire, but has partially reopened as of May 14 - traffic is only allowed through the area with an RCMP escort, with drivers going through in small groups. The escort is set up between the Little Spruce Lake Road/North Star Road by Bakers Narrows and Athapap Road near Cranberry Portage, taking drivers through an area where the fire crossed the highway. The escorts will only take place from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m., with the highway barricaded after midnight.

Manitoba Highway 800, the road leading to Sherridon, is closed - the fire has burned across a substantial part of the road near Highway 10. The fire has also stranded the community of Pukatawagan, which is only connected via land by train lines in the summer months - the rail line goes through areas affected by the fire. Keewatin Railway Company, which operates the line, announced that no trains to Pukatawagan would be moving until at least May 18.

Activity at provincial parks affected by the fire - Bakers Narrows and Grass River - will be closed until at least May 27, shutting down all bookings for Bakers Narrows, Gyles, Iskwasum and Reed Lake campgrounds. Manitoba Environment will be in contact with anyone who has booked campsites or yurts before that date, most likely through email.

BellMTS internet service was restored to Flin Flon and nearby areas around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, allowing locals to access information about the fire again after a nearly three-day outage. Locals huddled around locations in Creighton and Denare Beach to access internet services during the outage, with Saskatchewan networks still operating - Starlink internet services were also accessible in some areas of Flin Flon, including a publicly accessible network at Flin Flon City Hall.

Debit and Interac payment services have also been out in many locations because of the internet outage. Phone services are still spotty as of Wednesday afternoon for both cell phones and landlines, which have worked intermittently despite the outages.

Manitoba Hydro service had been cut off for the Cranberry Portage area during the fire, but power had been restored to the community as of 5:30 p.m. according to the Rural Municipality of Kelsey.

NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) shows hotspots reported throughout the fire perimeter within the past 24 hours.

According to Natural Resources Canada mapping, the area around Flin Flon ranges from having a "moderate" to "high" fire danger for May 15. Municipal fire bans are in effect for Flin Flon, Creighton, Denare Beach and the Rural Municipality of Kelsey - the City of Flin Flon has asked people to avoid using offroad vehicles around Flin Flon until fire conditions ease up, as stray sparks from quads have been known to start brush fires in the past.

A Gofundme has been set up for residents of Cranberry Portage affected by the fire - as of Tuesday night, more than $4,300 had been raised through the campaign after just 10 hours.

The Environment Canada weather forecast for later this week calls for on-and-off rain showers in the Flin Flon area, including a 60 per cent chance of showers Wednesday with a risk of thunderstorms. Winds are anticipated to blow from the southeast, which may push the fire away from a collision course with Cranberry Portage.

The 60 per cent chance of showers is expected to continue into Wednesday night, with cloudy conditions and single-digit overnight lows continuing on for the rest of the week, with rain expected over the weekend.

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