BROCHET, Man. _ A remote northern Manitoba First Nation has declared a state of emergency after fire destroyed the community’s only grocery store.
The fire began early Sunday morning and gutted the Northern Store of Brochet-Barren Lands Nation.
Chief John Clarke says the building was still smoldering 12 hours later but no one was injured in the blaze.
He says his community of 600 people is in crisis and officials are working around the clock to get essential goods delivered.
Clarke says he’s hoping the Red Cross can deliver some supplies as early as today.
Manitoba RCMP say the fire is suspicious and is being investigated as an arson.
Brochet-Barren Lands Nation is about 900 kilometres north of Winnipeg near the Saskatchewan boundary.
Residents of Shamattawa First Nation, 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg, were left without a Northern Store, as well as the adjacent band office, radio station and 911 centre after a fire last September.
The fire prompted a state of emergency on the remote reserve, leaving the 1,500 residents without supplies or emergency services.
Six youngsters were believed to have been involved in setting the Sept. 22 blaze, but five are under the age of 12, so they can’t face charges. A 12-year-old boy was charged with arson.
Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson, who represents northern Manitoba First Nations, said this latest fire “is another reminder about how vulnerable many of our northern First Nations are and how we need to do more to keep our communities safe.”