About 2,000 people remained out of their homes Friday as fire crews battled wildfires threatening two communities in central Manitoba.

The residents from Easterville and the Chemawawin First Nation, 450 kilometres north of Winnipeg, were ordered to leave on Thursday as the fires crept to within half a kilometre.

Chief Clarence Easter, who was in Winnipeg, said he’d heard reports of damage but hadn’t confirmed then. He said he wasn’t going back to the First Nation because it was blocked off.

"Right now we’re still under evacuation notice. Until that’s removed, we can’t go home. It’s unsafe," Easter said. "We’re trying to assess how many people we have in the city, where they’re at and trying to accommodate everybody and keep everybody safe, that’s our main objective."

Shawn Feely of the Canadian Red Cross said some residents of the First Nation drove out themselves, while about 500 were taken by bus to Manitoba’s capital.

"We sent them to Winnipeg and we are hosting them in hotels, providing food, shelter and clothing, and any other necessities that they might need," Feely said.

"We also have a group of about 100 in The Pas."

Feely said about 200 people stayed behind to fight the fires.

The last few buses, along with four Red Cross workers, were leaving Friday morning, he said.

"There’s a lot of smoke in the community. Flames were not in the community, (but) they’re on the outside," said Feely, who added the Red Cross was working closely with First Nation officials.

The Red Cross was not asking for donations for evacuees.

"At this point there’s no need. The fire’s not in the community. We have an agreement with the federal government to support and there’s no plan at this point in time to go appeal."

The Manitoba government was handling the evacuation of Easterville and said about 70 from that community went to The Pas.

Gary Friesen, manager of the fire program with Manitoba Sustainable Development, said heavy equipment, water bombers and crews were on the ground working hard to hold back the blaze.

A provincial spokesman said the fire was about three square kilometres in size and crews were holding it at the edge of the communities.

A graduation ceremony on the Chemawawin reserve was cut short Thursday before grads got their diplomas because of the evacuation order.

Melissa Houle of Easterville, who attended the ceremony, said the grad started at 3 p.m. but half an hour later people got word from the Red Cross to get out.

She said they were told they were only allowed to take one bag.

— With files from CTV Winnipeg.