Nfld. & Labrador

Cabin loss in forest fire devastating for retired couple

A retired couple who lost everything in a cabin fire in central Newfoundland picked through the rubble Friday, but there wasn't much left to salvage.

Forestry official says conditions are very dry, with double the typical number of fires

Allan Petten picks through the rubble of his destroyed cabin near Terra Nova. (Garrett Barry)

A retired couple who lost everything in a cabin fire in central Newfoundland picked through the rubble Friday, but there wasn't much left to salvage.

"Pretty sad to come in," said Allan Petten. "It was a beautiful cabin all done with pine inside, and we really enjoyed it, and to come in now there's nothing to be seen only ashes."

He and his wife Mary lost their vacation home in a forest fire that swept through the area near Terra Nova late Thursday afternoon, burning three cabins.

"Oh my, I can't explain what it looks like. I was dreading this all the way in from home this morning," said Mary Petten, who drove from Port de Grave to see what remained.

"When I come and look at this, I just can't believe it's happened."

Mary Petten says her son is building a shed on the property and may build a cabin there, but she and her husband don't have the heart to rebuild. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The Pettens bought the property, located 20 kilometres down a dirt road, back in 2005.

"It was just a shell of a cabin here ... Me and my husband, we used to bring the things from out home, Port de Grave, and we used to go down there to the end of the road and we had to walk all up through the bushes, no path or anything."

Allan Petten, a retired fisherman, doesn't expect to spend much time here now.

"We won't be rebuilding, but probably my son will eventually. Seeing he's got his shed started here, he might put another cabin here, right?"

Extremely dry conditions

Firefighters continued to hose down the woods on Friday. Cabin owners said it could take days to put out all the hot spots.

"It's extra dry from one end of the island to the other," said Eric Young, duty officer with the provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources.

"It's a major concern for the forestry branch."

Fire Crews are hosing down woods near Terra Nova. The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources says dry conditions have led to 35 forest fires so far this year. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Young said there have been 35 forest fires so far this year, compared with the typical average of 15-20.

The forest has not "greened up" yet, he said, and a fire can move very fast.

Young's advice for people camping over the long weekend: keep fires small, keep a close eye on them, and watch the wind.

When you're ready to call it a night, he said you should, "soak it, stir it and soak and stir again."

With files from Garrett Barry