Weeks after being evacuated due to wildfires, Bloodvein First Nation residents elated to be home

After living out of a downtown Winnipeg hotel for weeks, Elaine Duck could barely contain her excitement about heading home to Bloodvein First Nation.  

“Yes we’re heading home!” she said while getting ready to board a bus back to Bloodvein First Nation Thursday morning. 

Elaine Duck said she was so happy to be going home to Bloodvein First Nation Thursday. (Darin Morash/CBC)

Hundreds of people from the community made the trip home this week after forest fires forced them to relocate to Winnipeg. 

Almost 700 people from the community had to leave their homes with little notice on July 19. 

Dolores Turtle was already in Winnipeg visiting a sick relative when she found out about the evacuation. She said she was grateful to sleep in her own bed Thursday night, and relieved that her home wasn’t damaged by surrounding wildfires. 

“I feel great. I so missed home.”

Turtle said she will have some cleaning up to do, including washing her walls and getting rid of food that went bad while she was away, but says it’s all a minor inconvenience.

Ellen Young, a band councillor with the First Nation, said the main issue right now is food security. The community was without power for days in mid-July after wildfires destroyed hydro lines, meaning people lost entire freezers of meat and other frozen products. 

Young said the First Nation will be distributing meat packs, fresh vegetables and other goods from its food bank to help people get by in the meantime. 

Smoke from fires near Bloodvein First Nation forced the community to evacuate, though no homes were damaged. (Derek Cook/Facebook)

Young, who has been a band councillor since 2008, said this year is the first time that she’s aware of that the community had to be evacuated because of wildfires. 

“It was a real experience, I tell you.”

No homes in the First Nation were damaged, though one was broken into by a bear, she said. 

Bloodvein was one of seven First Nations that had to be evacuated due to wildfires in Manitoba. 

About 2,500 evacuees from Bloodvein First Nation, Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Berens River First Nation, and Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, also known as Nelson House, returned home this week. 

As of Thursday, there were 136 active wildfires in Manitoba, most of which are in the northern region.

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