75 homes evacuated as forest fire continues near Saint Andrews

Steve Cooke captured the forest fire from Kerrs Ridge, another small community near Bocabec. (Steve Cooke - image credit)
Steve Cooke captured the forest fire from Kerrs Ridge, another small community near Bocabec. (Steve Cooke - image credit)

A forest fire continues to rage in communities near Saint Andrews in southwestern New Brunswick, prompting  evacuation orders for some regions in Bocabec early Sunday evening.

Saint Andrew Fire Chief Kevin Theriault said the fire was started by an ATV fire in the woods in Chamcook, just outside of Saint Andrews, around 1:30 p.m.

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"By the time they got there, the fire jumped away from the side-by-side and was running through the woods. [Department of Natural Resources] was contacted initially the for backup. And with the wind today in the dry conditions, it just ran," he said.

Around 75 homes have been evacuated so far, said Theriault. He said the last update from DNR indicated that the fire was around 75 hectares.

Steve Cooke
Steve Cooke

He said three water bombers were brought in earlier in the day, but ended operations after sunset. Theriault said there are crews in the woods in attack lines with water hoses.

He said the evacuations were done proactively, "before it was too late," so no one had to leave their home in the middle of the night.

He said RCMP are keeping the area secure and the highway is shut down.

Saint Andrews Mayor Brad Henderson said the W.C. O'Neill Arena, which was opened as an emergency shelter earlier, has lots of food, water and power. He said Red Cross volunteers are at the complex.

Henderson said people who had to leave their homes should not expect to return tonight.

Andrea Anderson-Mason, MLA for Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West, the neighbouring riding to where the main forest fires are, said Magaguadavic Centre in Saint George is also open as a shelter.

"Eastern Charlotte has opened their doors for anybody who needs a place to go," she said.

Andrea Anderson-Mason
Andrea Anderson-Mason

She first saw the smoke when she was driving home from Fredericton in the afternoon. She said she's since connected with the Saint Croix MLA Kathy Bockus and the ministers of public safety and natural resources.

"It's all hands on deck," said Anderson-Mason. "Everyone's looking to make sure that the people in the area are taken care of. You know, it's a strange thing when you are a representative for the province because you feel it very personally. You worry for your neighbours."

On Sunday evening, there were around 5,000 N.B. Power customers without power. Some of the outages were the result of forest fires, an N.B. Power spokesperson confirmed. The number later dropped to around 650.

A burn ban is also in effect for the whole province.