Métis firefighter in coma after defending home from wildfire

Fires are burning in B.C., N.W.T. and across the prairies.

A Métis wildland firefighter from East Prairie Métis Settlement is in a coma in an Edmonton hospital after being injured while battling a wildfire that was threatening his home and community.

Frankie Payou, 33, has been a firefighter for 14 years.

According to his family, Payou was at home with his girlfriend, who is five months pregnant and with their seven month old daughter who had kidney surgery a few days before, when they were told to leave because the fire was coming closer.

Payou stayed behind to try and save the house.

“Frankie had done everything he could to try to save their house,” said Jessica Supernault, Melody’s cousin. “He went to a neighbors’ to help another house and within that 15 minutes their house had burned.”

East Prairie Métis Settlement is located about 380 km northwest of Edmonton.

On May 14, Payou was cutting down a burned tree when it came down on top of him. He was airlifted to Edmonton to deal with his extensive injuries. He remains in a coma.

“He had liver and kidney damage, broken ribs and they were waiting for spinal surgery to come and see how bad his C7 in his spine was… how badly fractured it was.

Supernault said back home, the family has lost everything.

“They have nothing left. They lost their home that they own. And that’s going to take quite a bit. And just being able to raise their family is going to take quite a bit.”

There are currently 86 active wildfires burning in Alberta – 24 are out of control.

As of May 15, 13,000 people have fled their homes. Of that number, 1,000 are First Nation and Métis peoples.

Fires burning throughout the N.W.T., B.C.

Authorities in the N.W.T. and British Columbia are also issuing evacuation orders for First Nation communities threatened by wildfires.

According to government agencies, fire crews struggle to contain the fires due to low visibility caused by heavy smoke.

On May 14, evacuation orders were issued for the Town of Hay River and K’atl’odeeche First Nation in the Northwest Territories due to a wildfire in the area.

The orders impacted over a combined 3,500 from both communities.

KFN members were bussed or drove to an evacuation centre in Yellowknife, five hours away.

According to a social media post from the First Nation, everyone was safely evacuated from the community.

The fire devastated K’atl’odeeche; according to NWT Fire as it remains out of control. Approximately 15 buildings were damaged this week.

Crews that were battling the fire had to pull out due to dangerous conditions from smoke and low visibility; air tanker groups remained active in the area.

In British Columbia, there are 63 active wildfires, according to B.C. Wildfire Service.

The Prince George Fire Centre is the region where most of the fires are burning; the area spans from central to Northeastern parts of the province; 41 fires are burning in the area while facing service drought conditions.

Over the weekend, the Stoddart Creek Wildfire was detected; the fire is now 1,200 hectares.

On May 15, Doig River and Blueberry River First Nations faced evacuation orders, and the city of Fort St. John was issued an evacuation alert due to the growing fire and changing conditions.

According to B.C. Wildfire Services fire crews pulled back from fighting the fires at Stoddart Creek and nearby Red Creek due to smoke and poor visibility.

Wildfires threaten Buffalo Narrows in Saskatchewan, force evacuation

Dramatic pictures and videos are coming out of northern Saskatchewan where fires resulted in an urgent evacuation of one community Monday night.

Buffalo Narrows mayor says her community is surrounded by wildfires and they’ve been without power for two days.

Sandy Ericson said that while the fire is not in the community, some cabins have been lost near the town, most belonging to residents of Buffalo Narrows.

“They go there in the summer so they can practice their traditional culture, fishing, we still have some trappers and fisherman and that in the community,” Ericson said. “Some of these cabins belong to seniors, I think the oldest one is in his ‘90s. He jumped in his boat and went to his cabin to get away from the fire, but his cabin is not in the fire zone.”

Overnight, the McCallum family fought to save their cabin from the raging fire. Dramatic photos show how close the it came. The cabin was saved in the end.

Ericson said they have been advising the elderly, pregnant and people with babies or those with breathing issues to leave. It was then expanded as the fire grew near.

“We issued a mandatory evacuation yesterday because of the smoke.  You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”

Ericson estimates around 500 people have left the community so far, and more are to be evacuated if the fires permit.

“The smoke is the biggest concern right now, there’s a danger of flying embers, cause that’s how the fire got out of control, like, it’s jumping back and forth across the highway, 155, which is our only way in and out of our community,” said Ericson.

Most of Buffalo Narrows evacuees have had to go to Regina, 750 km to the south, as larger centres closer to them have no room due to prior evacuations from other communities

Due to hot, dry conditions and the extreme fire risk that covers most of northern Saskatchewan, a provincial fire ban has been put in place for areas north of Hwy 16, just days ahead of the may long weekend.  According to the government, 28 wildfires are burning—to date, there have been more than double the number of wildfires usually seen at this time of year.

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