Nfld. & Labrador

Mayor suspects vandalism after pumper ignites during Bell Island brush fire

Amid a fire ban across Newfoundland and Labrador, the Town of Wabana is now down a fire truck after a pumper caught fire this weekend on Bell Island.

Gary Gosine believes rash of fires were deliberately set

Bright orange flames and thick black smoke come out of a firetruck in a field.
A fire truck in Wabana caught fire while crews responded to a call of a brush fire. (Submitted by Jordan Blackwood)

Amid a fire ban across Newfoundland and Labrador, the Town of Wabana is now down a fire truck after a pumper caught fire this weekend on Bell Island.

"Our fire truck happened to be up into the bush and the fire got underneath our truck and caught on fire to our exhaust system," said Mayor Gary Gosine.

The town bought the pumper from another municipality a couple of years ago. Without it, they're now down one of their key pieces of firefighting equipment. 

"We responded to eight or 10 fires. And from the community, we had over 40 phone calls in two days," Gosine said.

Gosine said that volume is unusual for the local fire department. While it can usually respond to several calls at once, that depends on having a full complement of resources.

Photo shows the charred interior of the cab of a fire truck, including a melted steering wheel.
Wabana Mayor Gary Gosine says a weekend fire that wound up igniting a truck could have been vandalism. (Submitted by Jordan Blackwood)

Fire departments across Newfoundland and Labrador have been kept on their toes during the recent hot weather. While two major forest fires have been burning out of control in central Newfoundland, smaller fires have been breaking out in other places, sometimes caused by sparks from things like backyard fires

Gosine said he does not believe all of the fires in Wabana were natural. 

"Everyone is saying to me it probably started from a pebble and the sun hitting a pebble, which therefore reacted and started a fire," he said.

"I don't seem to think that way — I just think it was vandalism. Because there's too many fires going on."

He said the fires put crews at risk.

"They're all trained firemen, but someone could easily get trapped. And that's what I'm really afraid of," he said.

Gosine said he has been speaking to other towns who might want to help.

A firetruck sits in an open field with the front half blackened by fire.
One of Wabana's main pieces of fire equipment was burned after catching fire on the weekend. (Submitted by Jordan Blackwood)

"We will take any help we can get from any town to bring our fire gear back to a status quo."

Goisine said a likely scenario would involve getting an old pumper from another community.

He said losing a truck like this in a small community can be "life and death," and he hopes to get another one quickly.

"We just got to wait. That's all we can do."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Antle

Journalist

Sarah Antle is a journalist working with CBC in the St. John's bureau.

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