07/02/2013 09:59 EDT | Updated 09/01/2013 05:12 EDT

People ponder temporary move from smoke-plagued northern Manitoba town

GILLAM, Man. - Heavy smoke from forest fires in the region has led to voluntary evacuations from a northern Manitoba community.

Officials in Gillam, about 1,100 kilometres north of Winnipeg, say residents who are bothered by the smoke can leave and get accommodation in Thompson.

They say the fires pose no major threat to the community, but warn that a mandatory evacuation order could be issued if the smoke worsens.

Russ Howell, a Manitoba Hydro worker, says the smoke is the worst he's seen in 12 years of living in Gillam, and was so thick at one point on the weekend that the streetlights came on.

Anyone who leaves Gillam is asked to register at the local recreation centre first.

There are currently 173 forest fires burning in northern Manitoba. (CJOB)