Strong winds challenge crews fighting grass fires

High winds made it tricky for firefighters as they battled grass fires outside both Winnipeg and Brandon on Tuesday afternoon.

Fire trucks from the Rural Municipality of Headingley, west of Winnipeg, spent hours fighting a grass fire that damaged several vehicles at Dawson Performance, an auto dealership and repair shop.

Stacy Titterton, who works at a restaurant nearby, said high winds worked in firefighters' favour and pushed the flames away from the business. But a number of vehicles in the vicinity weren't spared, she added.

"Mostly trucks, yeah. So something was exploding. Whether it was truck tires or gas tanks, I'm not too sure. Probably at least 10, maybe upwards of 15," Titterton said.

"They're in the middle of shifting all the other vehicles away from the fire right now."

It wasn't clear when the grass fire started or how. The vehicles were being stored in the area at the time.

Titterton said the fire has subsided, but there were a number of construction vehicles being used to flatten the grass down and stamp out the flames.

In western Manitoba, fire crews in Brandon battled a stubborn grass fire just outside the southeast corner of the city.

RCMP say no one has been forced from their homes, but conditions in the area were very dry.

Meanwhile, Manitoba Hydro says about 2,000 customers in the Brandon region were without electricity on Tuesday afternoon, after winds damaged power lines.

Brandon University was affected by the outage, as is a pumping station, according to the utility.

Hydro spokesperson Glenn Schneider said crews have been working to restore power in Boissevain, Deloraine and Souris, as well as in some parts of Brandon and Virden.

"We're having an interesting time, one might say, in the Westman area and also in other parts of the province affected by the high winds today — some cross arms coming down, some poles being broken, a couple of pole-top fires," he said.

Power outages were also reported in Virden and in Steinbach, where about 600 people are without electricity.

A wind warning was in effect for the Brandon, Morden and Killarney areas on Tuesday afternoon, according to John Sauder of the CBC Forecast Centre.

"We're behind this frontal system that's moving through," he said.

"We could see wind gusts up to 90 kilometres an hour. Already we've seen generally winds around 50 to 70 kilometres an hour through the day, and that includes the Winnipeg area, and it's pretty much right out of the west."

The wind warning ended shortly after 6 p.m.

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