Paradise Lake cabin owners should leave area, says forest fire official

The forest fires around the Bay d'Espoir Highway and Paradise Lake are still active. The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture warned residents, cabin owners and travellers on Saturday of the risks associated with staying in the area ahead of high temperatures expected Sunday.

Warning comes ahead of expected high temperatures and winds Sunday

A firefighter sprays the ground with water from a hose. He is standing on blackened earth and surrounded by charred trees and smoke.
A firefighter works to control the Bay d'Espoir Highway fire, which has been burning in central Newfoundland since Sunday. It is 10 per cent contained, according to officials. (Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture/Twitter)

Forestry officials are warning cabin owners around Paradise Lake in central Newfoundland to leave, as the risk of a forest fire in the area spreading increases because hot and windy weather is forecast for Sunday.

Jeff Motty, provincial forest fire duty officer, says no cabins or structures have been lost to the fire so far.

"Our efforts to date have been focused on protecting those structures," said Motty.

"We want to make sure that the cabin owners are not in there, because when things turn for the worse, they turn worse real quick.… I mean that fire can jump and get legs and go."

The warning came ahead of Sunday's weather forecast for central Newfoundland, which calls for high temperatures and wind speeds, which can cause new fires and the spread of existing forest fires.

Forest roads near the Paradise Lake and Bay d'Espoir fires are also closed, but Route 360 — known as the Bay d'Espoir Highway — remains open.

In an update Saturday morning, the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture recommended that residents and travellers in the area be prepared for hot weather and have an emergency plan.

The department lists five active forest fires in the province — Deer Pond, two near Newton Lake, one near the Bay d'Espoir Highway, and Paradise Lake.

All fires, except Paradise Lake, are listed as contained to varying degrees.

Paradise Lake remains out of control and three water bombers are assigned to it, as well as 14 workers from the forest protection centre in Gander.

"I cannot stress enough the work that the air services does between the water bomber pilots and the ground crews and the dispatch and all their management staff to be prepared to respond," said Motty.

The Bay d'Espoir highway opened to traffic on Monday evening. According to Motty, the fire there is now 10 per cent contained.

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.
Charred trees and vegetation line parts of the Bay d'Espoir Highway after a large forest fire swept through the area, closing the highway. (Submitted by Alisha Joe)

Motty says there are two helicopters, 38 firefighters and eight pump units deployed to the fire Saturday to fight what is estimated to be a 1,035-hectare fire, or more than 2,500 football fields.

"They're making really good progress on that site," said Motty, adding that five millilitres of rain Friday night helped crews.

Motty commended the hard work of all emergency responders involved.

"There's people in Labrador that have come down to the fire and helped fight that fire. So it's a full provincial effort," said Motty.

"Logistically, this is a very complex incident."

As of Saturday morning, a total of 61 forest fires in the province have been recorded so far in 2022, burning a total of 2,714 hectares.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Heather Gillis