Most people living in the town of Wabush evacuated the western Labrador community overnight to escape smoke from a nearby forest fire.

Town officials declared a state of emergency at approximately 9 p.m. local time on Friday, and residents were transported to nearby Labrador City.

Town officials said they were beginning a "phased" evacuation due to concerns over air quality.

As of noon Saturday, the Canadian Red Cross team registered 1,409 evacuees at the Arts and Culture Centre in Labrador City. Government officials said about 1,800 people needed to leave the mining town in the wake of forest fires that have been burning since last Sunday.

People yet to register and who have cellphone or telephone access may also call the Canadian Red Cross in St. John's, at 709-758-8416. By leaving a message, St. John's-based volunteers will reply to take registration details. Concerned family members elsewhere in the province or across Canada may also call that number.

Landlines in Wabush have been down since Friday afternoon, and 911 phone services are also affected.

BellAliant officials have spotted the damage done to their cables through helicopter reconnaissance.

Spokesperson Mark Duggan said damage was caused by a separate fire from the one threatening Wabush, adding there is still too much smoke and fire to get in to repair the damage.

Duggan said that due to limited cell phone coverage in Labrador west, there is a lot of congestion on the system, and some calls may not be getting through. He's asking people to limit their calls to emergency use only.

Duggan said he hopes to have a further update on the situation later today.

In the event of an emergency, Wabush citizens can make calls from their cellphones to 709-280-9011. Residents of Labrador City can call from a landline to another landline by dialing 709-944-7602 in an emergency. Cellphones in all of Labrador West can call 709-280-2841.

Boil water advisory

A boil water advisory was issued Saturday morning for Wabush.

Residents are advised not to use tap water for drinking, washing produce or brushing their teeth. The town advises that boiled or bottled water be used for these purposes.

Fire stays at bay

Conservation officer Chuck Porter said the fire has not moved closer to the town, and some ground crews were dispatched to combat the fire on Saturday morning.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said on Friday that electricity outages could strike the towns if the situation changes, but no outages had been reported as of Saturday morning.

Environment Canada has a special air quality statement in effect for Labrador West, and the area may receive 2 millimetres of rain on Saturday evening.

The airport in Wabush remains open.

The Trans-Labrador Highway remains closed, but police escorted one convoy travelling west and another heading east on Saturday morning. Only essential services and first responders are allowed into the town.