The province’s latest fire bulletin issued Tuesday afternoon said the wildfire threatening the town of Cranberry Portage, measures approximately 37,000 hectares in size. The fireline closest to the town is now under control and crews continue to make good progress in other areas.

More than 500 people were initially evacuated from Cranberry Portage, plus nearly 200 more from the surrounding region.

On Friday, officials declared the fire line near the community under control. allowing residents in and around the community to return home on Sunday morning. 

For Shannon Samatte-Folkett, who was born and raised in the northern Manitoba town, the all-clear was welcome news.

"I still have lots of family there," said Samatte-Folkett,  Executive Director of Boundary Trails Health Centre Foundation. "But most importantly, my grandmother still lives there, in the same house I grew up going to every day."


Aerial view of Cranberry PortageAerial view of Cranberry Portage

As a child Samatte-Folkett would go down to the beach. Now, every summer she takes Finley, her daughter, there to visit. 

"We've gone every year. It's really important to us to have her connect with my community, and of course my grandma is there. So, it's home. I'm really happy it was saved. It's been an emotional week for sure."

Samatte-Folkett was collecting her daughter from down south in the U.S. when she heard from friends who were worried about the 80-year-old woman.

"I began getting all kinds of messages from my friends worried about my grandma. I had no idea what was going on. There was a lot of panic there. I have since, obviously, been in contact. It was scary! She had like, 10 minutes to collect her things and leave. She said that it was smoky. They knew there were fires but had nothing prepared to leave. Not having Internet or cell phone, she was not aware of any pre-evacuation orders. She heard some sirens and went outside. Some other neighbors were out there and it was just chaos to leave. It was a mad dash to throw stuff together and get on the road. You know, she's 80, and it was just scary."

The senior woman and other residents were evacuated to The Pas in the night. She returned Sunday morning to a home untouched by fire.

"It's still very hard," said Samatte-Folkett, "But each day when I learn more, I'm feeling more relieved. But I'm so sad. I see all the photos. It's just going to be very somber when we go up to see her. I'm heartbroken for everybody there. I know there are cabins that were lost. A lot of people are affected."

According to the Province, eight properties were lost to the fire in Sourdough Bay: one permanent residence, five seasonal properties (cottages) and two garages. One permanent residence was lost in Twin Lakes. All property owners have been notified. Aerial crews have also identified a small number of structures believed to be damaged in the other areas affected by the fires that will be confirmed by ground crews in the coming weeks as well as damage to any other structures.

The sudden chaos from the wildfires had created a sense of fear and helplessness. Hearing the news that her grandma could go home was like a huge weight being lifted off her shoulders said Samatte-Folkett.


Samatte-Folkett's grandmother's back yard.Samatte-Folkett's grandmother's back yard.

What did grandma find on re-entering the house?

"Everything was in order, besides food from fridge/freeze spoiled due to how long the power was out. But it's replaceable. She chuckled at how much yard work needs to be tended to." 

The experience has made an impression of her grandma's resiliency and deep gratitude for the support shown. 

"There's been so much love and support and kindness. A lot of people have reached out to me, and I thank them a lot. It's a struggle, but I'm happy that everybody is safe. You know, possessions are one thing, but my family is safe."

Samatte-Folkett says very dry seasons always create a feeling of unease, and she worries about her grandma being up there with limited family there to support her. 

"But we truly saw our northern communities rally and support everyone, which was a huge comfort for us. I may have moved away, but it is and always will be, home. There is no place like it. I can’t wait for my summer trip up there."

Significant resources continue suppression efforts on the fire near Cranberry Portage including six water bombers, seven helicopters, over 200 provincial personnel, 40 firefighters from Ontario, five from Parks Canada, 20 from New Brunswick and 21 from Quebec.

~With files from Ronny Guenther~

Hydro substation on fire near Cranberry PortageFlames approach a Hydro substation near Cranberry Portage