Forest fires in central Newfoundland are still burning after some hot and windy weather over the weekend, and the province's foremost fire safety officials are preparing for worsening conditions in the coming days.
As of Monday morning, the fire along the Bay d'Espoir Highway — which has caused closures to the only roadway connecting that area of the south coast to the rest of the island — was considered 20 per cent contained.
Two helicopters, seven pump units and 26 crew members are continuing to fight the blaze, which has burned over 1,000 hectares of land since it began on July 24.
Meanwhile, a separate fire at nearby Paradise Lake continues to burn out of control. On Saturday, provincial forestry officials warned cabin owners in the area to leave and closed forest roads as the risk of the fire spreading increased with hot and windy weather expected on Sunday.
As of Monday morning, one helicopter was on the scene surveying the area.
Jeff Motty, a supervisor for forest protection for the province, said Monday's plan is to have ground crews head into Paradise Lake with three water bombers on standby should they be needed.
He said a fire behavioural analyst is also keeping tabs on the weather each day to make sure the public can be updated if the fires become erratic on those sites.
"We were fortunate to have a low cloud ceiling on Paradise Lake, and [the speed] of the winds was not quite as high there yesterday and the temperatures were lower," Motty said.
"We did do a lot of suppression work in advance to get prepared."
Motty said the spread index is still high Monday, as indicated by the weather stations on the sites giving real-time information to the fire behavioural analyst.
Preparedness and prevention
Ed Osmond, chief of the Terra Nova volunteer fire department, said his station has been active over the last few weeks preparing for fire season.
It started with a fire preparedness day on June 11 to educate the public on wild fires and demonstrate firefighting equipment.
He said the public was asked to clean up debris from their properties as the fire season moved closer.
"For spreading, all it takes it that debris, that dead brush and everything is for a spark to land on that and it's ignited," he said.
"It's so easy to clean up and make is safer for everybody."
The fire index in Terra Nova is low to moderate right now, Osmond said, adding he expects the level to rise to extreme within the next day or two, meaning open fires or fires within fire pits are not allowed as the risk of potential spread is high.
Motty said fire hazard maps for the province are updated three times a day.
"I encourage people to always be vigilant and check the website — always know the fire hazard risk. There's lots of resources on our provincial government website, there's links to things homeowners can do from prevention efforts to fire smart," he said.
"Quite often it's not the actual fire that burns homes and structures, it's the embers that are 150 feet ahead of that fire that are being driven by wind."