Nfld. & Labrador

Bay d'Espoir Highway remains closed as hot, windy conditions fuel fires

The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture has banned open fires in the eastern and central regions of the island as forest fires continue.

Province bans open fires in eastern, central regions of Newfoundland

A checkpoint on the highway keeping the road closed to traffic, with people in safety vests sitting by the side of the road.
Route 360 remained closed on Saturday due to the ongoing fires. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

With fires in Central Newfoundland having raged for two weeks, the Bay d'Espoir Highway will remain closed until at least Sunday morning, according to a government update issued early Saturday.

Provincial forest fire duty officer Jeff Motty says the closure will likely continue over the weekend.

"I'm not hopeful for tomorrow in terms of the winds. I guess today we're going to try and get in there today and work that fire," said Motty.

"On Sunday afternoon, there's going to be a maximum temperature of 28 degrees and the winds are gusting to 35 km/h. So that's disheartening from our perspective because of those high winds that fuelled the fires and caused that huge fire growth that we're seeing now."

A large forest fire near the Bay d'Espoir Highway is still burning on Monday but is considered about 20 per cent under control. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador/Twitter)

According to the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, there are four active fires on the island. While the fire near Deer Pond is under control, three others are out of control as of Saturday morning — those near Paradise Lake, the Bay d'Espoir Highway and Southern Lake.

The biggest fire is the one near the Bay d'Espoir Highway, with an estimated size of 5,180 hectares, or almost 13,000 football fields.

The Paradise Lake fire spans about 3,884 hectares.

Motty urges people to stay away from the area, which houses around 200 cabins.

"We don't want people to be entering the area when we have the warnings out there," said Motty.

"Listen to what we're saying. We don't make those choices.… In recent days, we haven't had to deal with anyone that's been in their cabins that shouldn't have been in the cabins. But earlier on, that was something that was kind of tying up some of our resources."

According to Motty, more than 50 provincial staff members and nine crews from Quebec are fighting the four active fires in the region.

In a statement issued Friday, the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture has also banned open fires in the eastern and central regions of the island.

The ban, which will be in effect from midnight on Saturday until Aug. 16, prohibits fires on forest land or within 300 metres of it.

"That's a result of the recent dry and hot and windy conditions … that have been occurring in Newfoundland, and the large number of fires in the area being burned, of course, currently," said Motty.

Meanwhile, Environment Canada has issued an air quality statement for northeastern Newfoundland, including Grand Falls-Windsor, Clarenville, the Bonavista Peninsula and the Terra Nova area.

The statement also says smoke is expected to spread to eastern Newfoundland on Saturday morning and that smoke plume may cause poor air quality for a while until the winds shift southerly.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Henrike Wilhelm

Journalist

Henrike Wilhelm is a journalist working with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

With files from Weekend AM

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