Nfld. & Labrador

After brief reopening, Bay d'Espoir highway closes again on Day 12 of forest fire

The Bay d'Espoir highway has closed after reopening for a few hours Thursday morning, as fire crews continue to fight several forest fires on the island of Newfoundland.

Highway to reopen at 8 a.m. until noon through the weekend

A road, as seen from behind the windshield of a vehicle. The sky is overcast and the air is smoky. Charred vegetation can be seen on the side of the road.
The Bay d'Espoir Highway has been opened and closed off and on due to a forest fire which began on July 24. (Submitted by Alisha Joe)

The Bay d'Espoir highway has closed after reopening for a few hours Thursday morning, as fire crews continue to fight several forest fires on the island of Newfoundland.

The provincial government closed the road for the day due to increasing amounts of smoke and deteriorating driving conditions, said the provincial Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture department in a tweet shortly after noon.

The highway will reopen at 8 a.m. NT Friday and close at noon. The same schedule will be followed until noon Sunday. 

In a press release issued shortly after 4 p.m. on Thursday, the provincial government said it's monitoring the weather forecast and fire conditions and will update the public if any changes to the schedule are required.

The release says the provincial government will reassess the schedule Monday. 

The release says high temperatures and winds are expected in the region over the short term, with prevalent smoke.

"Residents and communities are asked to use caution and to take measures to ensure personal safety and the safety of fire and road personnel," reads the release. "There is a significant amount of smoke, which may obscure visibility and lead to difficult driving conditions."

Area residents who have medical appointments with Central Health between Thursday and Monday that they can't make due to the fire should call the health authority to reschedule, says the release.

The Canadian Red Cross is also providing help where possible with lodging, reception, emergency clothing or food.

Earlier Thursday, provincial forest fire duty officer Jeff Motty cautioned that a change in wind direction could blow more smoke in the area, rendering the road unsafe.

The province also opened the highway Wednesday morning before later closing it again.

Motty said according to incident commanders, about 40 vehicles were waiting to get onto the highway early Thursday. He said the main operational objective for crews has been to open the highway.

"Safety is the No. 1 priority, " he said.

Motty said four waterbombers and about 30 crew were positioned to fight the fires near Bay d'Espoir and Paradise Lake. The provincial government is also calling in resources from Quebec.

He said additional resources are needed because of the size of the fires and the hot, dry weather. Some of the fires currently burning were set by lightning.

"These types of fires have time to build intensity and grow in size, and they burn hot and they burn deep," Motty said.

He said there's no rain currently forecasted in the forest fire areas for the next few days.

He said the resources from Quebec should arrive around 4 p.m. on Thursday.

"We'll put them straight to work," he said.

He noted the Newfoundland and Labrador government has shared resources to help fight fires in both Ontario and British Columbia in recent years.

Motty said a group from the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador presented fire crew members with a thank-you card.

"Crew morale is really high, and it's just those small recognitions from other groups that really keep them going," he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Newfoundland Morning

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