Prime Minister says ongoing support for central Newfoundland fires is biggest since 1961

The rapid spread of long-standing bushfires in central Newfoundland has created a state of emergency in the region and extended an outdoor fire ban statewide.

Prime Minister Andrew Fury told reporters on Sunday that a state of emergency had been declared the night before in the areas of Grand Falls Windsor, Bishop’s Falls and the Konnaigur Peninsula. The situation got even worse. The state of emergency was also extended to the Botwood area on Sunday afternoon.

“Things have changed in the last 36 hours,” Fury said at a press conference alongside Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture Minister Derrick Bragg and Natural Resources Agency Incident Commander Craig Cody.

“We expected this to be manageable.

“This is a precautionary measure and does not pose an immediate fire hazard to homes or residents,” the state said in a statement.

Fury said the current projected path of the blaze itself is not directly affecting any area, but changing wind patterns are making the situation difficult to deal with.

He urged Public Safety Minister John Horgan to ask him to declare a state of emergency and urged several nearby communities to prepare for possible evacuations.

“Like all fires, this is a dynamic and evolving situation, but we cannot wait until the last minute…we must act now,” Fury said.

Fires have been burning in central Newfoundland for nearly two weeks, prompting road closures, including the Bay Despoir Highway, the only road connecting the Harbor Breton, Hermitage and Conne River communities to the Trans-Canada Highway. A thoroughfare that cuts across the state.

Coady said the wildfires will most likely continue to spiral out of control due to weather conditions.

“We’ve seen extreme fire behavior over the last few days,” he said at a press conference. “We expect it to continue today, and probably over the next few days. This is due to high winds and low humidity.”

Both Coady and Furey said the smoke poses the most significant risk to nearby communities, adding that the wind is also making it difficult for firefighters to control the blaze.

“If (water) bombers can’t see the front of the fire and there’s too much smoke, it’s not safe for them to operate,” Cody said.

Overall, the province is using seaplanes (two from Quebec, in addition to the province supporting Bird Dog aircraft) and helicopters to fight the fire.

In a video posted to social media Saturday night, Furey described the single fire as the largest in the state since 1961.

Forestry Department State Officer Jeff Motti said the department hopes to change the status of the fire near Southern Lake Access Road, which started on July 31, before the end of the weekend. rice field.

“We’re working really hard. We’ve got a lot of resources,” Motti said in an interview on Sunday. think.”

Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair tweeted that he approved Newfoundland’s request for government assistance, and that Canadian military personnel will be deployed to support the evacuation efforts of provincial and municipal authorities.

Fury said he has asked the Central Health District to prepare evacuation plans for hospitals, long-term care facilities, and private care homes.

However, in a statement on Sunday, the Newfoundland government said Central Health would not take steps to evacuate Dr. Hugh Twomey’s health care center at this time.

“Efforts to move people who need additional care out of immediate smoke exposure will be supported,” the release said.

Grand Falls resident Alexandra Catherine said she was horrified at the thought of leaving her home and most of her belongings behind.

In an interview on Facebook Messenger, Katherine said: “Last night, I put everything together, including clothes and non-replaceable personal items.

“I have two small children at home, so I’m not going to risk it. We’re leaving and heading west.”

Another Grand Falls resident, Victoria A. Prowse Hunter, agreed with Katherine’s plan.

“I’m packing up and ready to leave as soon as the order is given,” Prowse-Hunter said in a Facebook Messenger interview.

Prowse-Hunter said he woke up to smoke the morning after the fire started.

“It was a warm night, and I had all the windows open, and I woke up at 7 a.m. with a constant cough,” she said. I did.”

The Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture tweeted Sunday morning that the Canadian Red Cross and Salvation Army will provide emergency services to those stranded on the Trans-Canada Highway as a result of the closure of the Bay d’Espoir Highway.

In a statement, the Canadian Red Cross said it had relocated shelter services and resources from Grand Falls Windsor to Deer Lake “for individuals who may be affected by the emergency.”

Bragg, meanwhile, urged residents to be “fire smart.”

The department said the outdoor fire ban, which was extended statewide on Sunday, bans setting fires in wooded areas or within 300 meters of them.

“I saw two people throwing cigarette butts last night and I thought it was absolutely ridiculous,” Bragg said. “It’s reckless and we don’t need it.”

“You can have a barbecue, but it’s not. It’s not strong enough. If you’re in a wooded area, don’t use an open fire of any kind.”

Virginie Ann

canadian press