POLITICS

A 78-year-old Manitoba man killed trying to fight grass fire on his land

04/27/2012 01:13 EDT | Updated 06/27/2012 05:12 EDT
PORTAGE-LA-PRAIRIE, Man. - Authorities are warning Prairie residents about the dangers of grass fires this spring, after a 78-year-old Manitoba man was killed while trying to fight a blaze on his property.

RCMP Cpl. Miles Hiebert said the fire broke out Thursday afternoon in a rural area southeast of Portage la Prairie and spread to a shed on the man's property. Police believe the man decided to fight the fire as fire crews were sent to the scene.

"Our investigation indicates that the homeowner ... had attempted to control a grass fire that was burning on his property and it subsequently spread to a shed," Hiebert said. "When firefighters were eventually able to extinguish the blaze in this outbuilding, the homeowner was located deceased inside.

"We've spoken to some witnesses and we need to gather some more information, but it appears that he had gone into the shed of his own accord in order to battle this blaze."

The name of the dead man is not being released.

Grass fires have been a problem right across the southern Prairies this spring, because the land is very dry in many areas. Fire crews in some location have been run ragged responding to calls.

Several rural municipalities in Manitoba have issued fire bans due to dry conditions.

Back in March, a grass fire driven by winds reaching 70 kilometres an hour damaged at least three farmyards after scorching a vast area north of Maple Creek, Sask. That fire drew crews from nine communities to help douse the wind-whipped flames. At one point, emergency crews ran low on water and asked area residents to haul water to a staging area to help in their battle.

A rash of grass fires in southern Alberta in January also led to highway closures and residents being put on evacuation alert.

Hiebert says people need to be aware of how dangerous grass fires are because they spread so quickly.

"It is a tragic story and it is something we would like to bring to the public's attention," he said.

"Our experience has been, with the extremely dry conditions and it has been a windy spring, that they spread extremely fast and cover a great territory in very short order. Certainly, as you can see, it doesn't take much to get trapped in a building or surrounded by a fire."