Help on the way for central Newfoundland fire, biggest since 1961, says premier

The rapid growth of a long-lasting wildfire in central Newfoundland has triggered a state of emergency in the region and the extension of an outdoor fire ban to the entire province .

Premier Andrew Furey told reporters on Sunday that a state of emergency had been declared the day before in the Grand Falls-Windsor, Bishop’s Falls and Connaigre Peninsula areas, “not to create panic” but to s Ensure residents and officials are prepared to respond if the situation deteriorates further.

“In the last 36 hours things have changed,” Furey told a news conference, alongside Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture Derrick Bragg and Incident Commander for the Department of Resources. natural Craig Coady.

“We predicted that we could manage this. However, with the change in the wind, we are concerned that there will be a significant impact from the smoke.”

Furey said the current predictive trajectory of the fire itself does not directly impact communities, but the changing winds made the situation difficult to manage.

He said it prompted him to ask Public Safety Minister John Hogan to declare a state of emergency and urged some nearby communities to prepare for a possible evacuation.

“This is a dynamic and evolving situation like all fires, but we can’t wait until the last minute, we need to act now,” Furey said.

The fire has been burning for nearly two weeks in central Newfoundland and has resulted in road closures, including the Bay d’Espoir road which is the only road connecting the communities of Harbor Breton, Hermitage and Conne River to the highway Trans-Canada Highway, the main artery through the province.

Coady said wildfires will most likely continue to spiral out of control due to weather conditions.

“Over the past two days, we have observed extreme fire behavior,” he said at the press conference. “We expect this to continue for today and possibly for the next few days. This is due to high winds and low humidity.”

Both Coady and Furey said the smoke posed the biggest risk to nearby communities, adding that the winds also made it difficult for firefighters to control the blazes.

“If the (water) bombers can’t see past the fire and there’s too much smoke, it’s not safe for them to operate,” Coady said.

In total, the province is using water bombers — two from Quebec, in addition to provincial assistance with a bird dog plane — and helicopters to fight the fires.

In a video posted to social media on Saturday evening, Furey described a fire as the largest the province has seen since 1961. On Sunday, the provincial government reported four active fires that covered approximately 10,800 hectares.

Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair tweeted that he had approved Newfoundland’s request for government assistance and that Canadian Armed Forces personnel would be deployed to assist provincial and municipal authorities in efforts to evacuation.

Furey said he asked the Central Health Region to create an evacuation plan for hospitals, long-term care homes and personal care homes.

“We strongly recommend that all citizens in the mentioned areas be on high alert for possible future evacuations,” the Prime Minister said.

The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture tweeted Sunday morning that the Canadian Red Cross and the Salvation Army will provide emergency services to people stranded on the Trans-Canada Highway following the road closure. of Hope Bay.

Meanwhile, Bragg pleaded for residents to be “fire smart”.

The ministry said the outdoor fire ban, which was extended provincewide on Sunday, prohibits the setting of fires on or within 300 meters of forest land.

“Last night I saw two people throw cigarette butts and thought that was absolutely crazy,” Bragg said. “It’s reckless and we don’t need it.”

“You can have your barbecue but don’t, and I can’t say this loud enough, if you’re in a wooded area, don’t have any kind of open fire.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 7, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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