New Brunswick

Firefighters battle more than 200 forest fires so far this season

After more than 200 forest fires this year, New Brunswick's fire prevention officer is hoping for rain and cooler temperatures to slow things down.

Most of the fires have been accidental, says New Brunswick's forest fire prevention officer

A tower of smokes rises from a forest fire burning along Route 118 in Miramichi back in May. (IAFF Local 5087/Facebook)

After more than 200 forest fires this year, New Brunswick's fire prevention officer is hoping for rain and cooler temperatures to slow things down.

Since April, fire crews have put out 208 fires across the province, including two fires earlier this week. 

A lighting strike ignited a blaze south of Mount Carleton Provincial Park that grew to three hectares, according to the Department of Energy and Resource Development spokesman.

The other fire, in Bantalor, about 35 kilometres west of Chipman, reached five hectares Monday.

The fire watch website said those two fires are still being patrolled by the Department of Energy and Resource Development. 

"The drought has basically been building all spring," Roger Collett said. "We're getting there. It's not terrible yet."

New Brunswick has sent a contingent of 42 firefighters, including 15 students, to Quebec to help fight large forest fires in the Baie Comeau area, more than 400 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.  

They joined the more than 600  firefighters from across Canada and the northeastern United States.

Hot, dry weather has fed fire season in Quebec. Here, thick smoke covers the town of Ville-Marie, northwest of Ottawa, because of a nearby forest fire. (Tanya Neveu/Radio-Canada)

The New Brunswick firefighters are in their second week in Quebec and are expected to return home to New Brunswick by the weekend or Monday.

"Usually, before we send anybody, we make sure that we're covered here [and] we can handle anything that happens," he said.   

If any more requests come in for firefighters, Collett said he'd have to reassess the situation.

"Pretty much every year we have requests to have crews to go outside the province," Collett said. "We know this is coming every year so plans are put in place."

Burn ban still in effect

Most of the New Brunswick fires have been small this year.

A burn ban is still in effect across the province, but rain on Tuesday could allow the province to move to restricted or open burning in some areas of the province.

"The cooler temperatures in the next couple of days are definitely a benefit for us," he said.

Burn bans cover areas outside municipalities. Towns and cities regulate their own burning, and registered campgrounds are exempt from burn bans.

Collett said conservation officers have been keeping watch across the province, but there are still reports of people starting fires when they shouldn't.

Most of the fires this year have been accidental. Some have started with people burning brush and not realizing how quickly a fire can get away from them. Fires have have also been sparked by dry weather and lightning.

Fewer last year

Last year, Collett said, New Brunswick has seen about 60 fires by this time.

"We didn't have a lot of fires," he said.

Fire season officially starts the third Monday of April, but there were about two fires a few days before the season opened this year.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton