Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland hit with almost 3 times as many forest fires as same period last year

Most of the forest fires that kept firefighters busy this weekend in Newfoundland are out, but there are already concerns about how severe this fire season could get.

Nearly all forest fires on island caused by people, says provincial forest fire duty officer

A waterbomber helps fight a forest fire last week near Bristol's Hope, on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. (Sonia Williams)

Most of the forest fires that kept firefighters busy in Newfoundland over the long weekend are out, but there are already concerns over just how severe this fire season could get.

According to provincial forest fire duty officer Eric Young, there have been 48 forest fires on the island since the official start of the forest fire season 22 days ago.

Compare that 14 at the same time last year.

"It's dry right across from the west coast to the east coast, but mostly in central Newfoundland," Young told the St. John's Morning Show.

Smoke and flames are seen in the Seymours Road area of Spaniards Bay on Saturday. (Facebook/Kiersten Carey)

There were still two active fires as of Monday morning, in the Terra Nova Lake and Boot Pond areas, but Young said they're both under control.

This weekend, especially Saturday, was extremely busy for crews battling seven fires spread across several regions of the island. Thankfully, they were all brought under control or extinguished, thanks in part to some rain Sunday evening.

"We had a whole range of different fires from a transformer catching on fire to grass fires to vehicles burning. Our day started with a camper fire around five o'clock in the morning and ended with a cabin fire around two thirty that night," he said.

"But thanks to the weather that went through [Sunday], all the fires that were active since Thursday have now been contained."

This cabin in Boot Pond was destroyed by fire early Sunday morning, victim of one of eight forest fires reported over the weekend in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Chris Tuck/Facebook)

Young said the 2017 season was unusually wet and cool, which could be why this year seems so busy already. He said there are always concerns about crew exhaustion when the season starts off so busy.

"When you get into really extended periods of warm weather, that's when it can get tiring," he said,

Humans to blame

So what is causing all of those Newfoundland forest fires, like the ones this weekend?

Young said it's pretty straight forward — they're caused by people.

"All of them. It's pretty easy to conclude that," he said. "Here on the island we normally have about 90 per cent of our fires on the island are human caused," he said.

Fire Crews hosing down woods near Terra Nova, at the site of one of seven forest fires on Newfoundland last week. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

In Labrador, they're more frequently caused by lightning strikes, but Young said in Newfoundland that's much more rare — and what's usually to blame is people accidentally losing control of backyard brush fires.

"People underestimate how dry the conditions are this time of year," he said. "When the grass is yellow and all the leaves are dried up it's very flammable."

With files from St. John's Morning Show