New Brunswick

Forest activity ban relaxed as fire risk falls

The risk of forest fires in New Brunswick has fallen “significantly” since last Friday, but there are still several wildfires burning and restrictions on activity in the woods will continue through the weekend, says the minister of natural resources and energy development.

Forestry and recreational travel allowed during morning hours and overnight

The fire weather index is still high in most of the province, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development (GNB)

The risk of forest fires in New Brunswick has fallen "significantly" since last Friday, but there are still several burning and restrictions on activity in the woods will continue through the weekend, says the minister of natural resources and energy development.

There are nine fires burning in the province, according to the provincial government's latest fire activity report — one in the Edmundston area, two in the Bathurst area and six in the Miramichi area.

All of them are under control.

A fire at Upper Tetagouche Lake was attacked with air tankers and ground crew Wednesday night, said Kelly Cormier, a spokesperson for the department.

The fire was prevented from spreading beyond about one hectare, she said. No structures were at risk.

Two firefighters remained on scene Thursday checking for hot spots.

Lightning is the suspected cause.

"There have been several fires in the northeastern part of the province over the last couple of days," Cormier said, "likely caused by a couple of thunderstorms that went through the area on Sunday and Tuesday."

Conditions are just as dry elsewhere in the province, she said.

Minister Mike Holland said an "extreme fire hazard" is why he took the "extreme measure" of banning all activity in Crown forests last week.

"When the index is so high, anything from a cigarette butt can be catastrophic," Holland said.

"If you set your eyeglasses down the reflection is enough to start a fire. All human activity poses a risk."

Holland said thanks to some rain, humidity and lower nighttime temperatures, the fire index has fallen quite a bit.

The Crown land activity ban was relaxed Thursday to allow forestry and recreational travel outside of the highest risk hours.

The peak risk daily is at about 4 p.m., Holland said. 

The ban applies from noon to 8 p.m. daily, through Sunday.

Holland urged people to stay off private forest land during those high-risk hours as well.

A view from a JDI Ltd. spotter plane flying over Cains River fires in York County last month. (J.D. Irving Ltd./Submitted)

Compliance with the order has been very good, said the minister, and there's been "very little" pushback from anyone, including the forestry industry.

Holland said he's "proud of the outdoor community" for taking the ban seriously, after he spent hours answering questions from the public about the unusual measure. 

It shows they appreciate the value of the resource, he said.

Many people wanted to know if they could still go boating on lakes and rivers.

That's ok, said Holland, if you can get there by municipal or private road or boat landing.

"Don't stop off along a river bank and have a barbecue or anything," he said.

Holland said the restrictions will likely be further reduced next week if it rains as expected.

More than 1,100 hectares of forest has burned already this year. The 10-year average to this date is 200 hectares.

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