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Bay d'Espoir Highway remains closed as hot, windy conditions fuel fires

Saturday, August 6th 2022, 11:58 am - Province bans open fires in eastern, central regions of Newfoundland.

With fires in Central Newfoundland having raged for two weeks, the Bay d'Espoir Highway will remain closed until at least Sunday morning, according to a government update issued early Saturday.

Provincial forest fire duty officer Jeff Motty says the closure will likely continue over the weekend.

"I'm not hopeful for tomorrow in terms of the winds. I guess today we're going to try and get in there today and work that fire," said Motty.

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"On Sunday afternoon, there's going to be a maximum temperature of 28 degrees and the winds are gusting to 35 kilometers per hour. So that's disheartening from our perspective because of those high winds that fueled the fires and caused that huge fire growth that we're seeing now."

According to the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, there are four active fires on the island. While the fire near Deer Pond is under control, three others are out of control as of Saturday morning — those near Paradise Lake, the Bay d'Espoir Highway and Southern Lake.

bay-d-espoir-highway-closed-due-to-fire/Danny Arsenault/CBC Route 360 remained closed on Saturday due to the ongoing fires. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

The biggest one is the one near the Bay d'Espoir Highway, with an estimated size of 5,180 hectares, a little more than nine football fields.

The Paradise Lake fire spans about 3,884 hectares.

Motty urges people to stay away from that area, which houses around 200 cabins.

"We don't want people to be entering the area when we have the warnings out there," said Motty.

"Listen to what we're saying. We don't make those choices ... In recent days, we haven't had to deal with anyone that's been in their cabins that shouldn't have been in the cabins. But earlier on, that was something that was kind of tying up some of our resources."

bay-d-espoir-highway-fire/Government of Newfoundland and Labrador/Twitter A large forest fire near the Bay d'Espoir Highway is still burning on Monday but is considered about 20 per cent under control. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador/Twitter)

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According to Motty, over 50 provincial staff members and nine crews from Quebec are currently fighting the four active fires in the region.

In a statement issued Friday, the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture has also banned open fires in both the eastern and central regions of the island.

The ban, which will be in effect from midnight on Saturday until Aug. 16, prohibits fires on forest land or within 300 metres of it.

CBC Thumbnail Mallory Slade and her family drove past flames and smoke as a forest fire burns along the Bay d'Espoir highway. (Submitted by Mallory Slade)

"That's a result of the recent dry and hot and windy conditions ... that have been occurring in Newfoundland, and the large number of fires in the area being burned, of course, currently," said Motty.

Meanwhile, Environment Canada has issued an air quality statement for northeastern Newfoundland, including Grand Falls-Windsor, Clarenville, the Bonavista Peninsula and the Terra Nova area.

The statement also says that smoke is expected to spread to eastern Newfoundland Saturday morning and that smoke plume may cause poor air quality for a while until the winds shift to southerly.

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This story, written by Henrike Wilhelm, was originally published by CBC News on Aug. 6, 2022.

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