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Both Newfoundland forest fires grow overnight, crews hope for rainy forecast

Tuesday, August 9th 2022, 8:49 am - Paradise Lake fire passes 10k hectares in size

Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial forest fire duty officer was hoping for rain Tuesday, as a raging forest fire near Grand Falls-Windsor widened by more than 50 per cent.

Jeff Motty said the size of the Paradise Lake fire is estimated to be 10,337 hectares, up from 6,614 hectares on Monday.

Even though water bombers were on the scene all day Monday, the fire grew in size as it remained unsafe for firefighting crews to tackle the fire directly.

"We really got to get the crews on that fire soon," Motty told CBC Radio Tuesday.

"If we can get a lot of water bomber activity on that, what happens then is we're able to get on an edge or a plank of that fire's perimeter, where it's safe to do so with crews, and we can start putting out hose lines out and start containing that fire," he said.

"But we're not quite ready to do so yet. That fire is so huge that it's going to take a lot time to tidy up that site."

bay-d-espoir-forest-fire Two massive forest fires continue to burn in central Newfoundland. The fire near the Bay D'Espoir Highway, pictured here on Sunday, grew by nearly 10 per cent in size over the course of Monday. (Submitted by Derrick Bragg)

RELATED: Out-of-control fires put Newfoundland towns on edge as crisis continues

Winds at Paradise Lake shifted north Monday, allowing for water bombers to be on the site for much longer than in previous days, Motty said.

Out-of-control fires have been burning now for more than two weeks.

As a result of the shifting winds, a special air quality statement has been issued for Corner Brook and other western Newfoundland communities, as well as parts of central Newfoundland including Buchans, Green Bay and White Bay.

Meanwhile, the fire that has closed the Bay D'Espoir Highway also grew Monday, with Motty estimating the fire now spans 5,727 hectares, an increase of almost 10 per cent.

He said crews will continue to do assessments over the course of the day to determine when the highway could reopen. Crews also preformed controlled burns in the area Monday — which destroys things like dried leaves and other small fire-starters to help limit the growth and intensity of a spreading forest fire.

"We got a lot of different pieces to this puzzle that are working really well, so we had a lot of good progress yesterday," Motty said.

Tuesday's weather forecast will also play a role in helping to fight the spreading fire. Forecasts from Environment Canada say five to 10 millimetres of rain are expected in Grand Falls-Windsor Tuesday, with southeast winds of 20 km/h gusting to 40 and a high of 15 degrees.

A similar forecast is expected in Bishop's Falls, as up to 10 mm of rain could fall throughout the day.

Rain is expected to continue in the coming days, along with the cooler temperatures.

"I'm hopeful that this forecast comes true," Motty said.

"Fire and weather, they go so hand in hand, so we really need Mother Nature on our side."

WATCH: Expect wildfires to worsen as heat gets more extreme in North America

Stay prepared as supplies start to come in: mayor

The forecast is welcome news for Bishop's Falls Mayor Bryan King.

"The fire is still continuing to grow and it is extremely active. However the good news is that…fire suppression has been continuing all day," King said Monday evening. "The air strikes and the water bombers are actively working today. So that's good news."

bishop-s-falls-mayor-bryan-king Bryan King is the mayor of Bishop's Falls. He's asking residents to remain prepared for anything as weather conditions unfold over the course of Tuesday. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

King said he's never seen emergency efforts like this during his time in the region, but thanked both the municipal and provincial governments for their work to make sure those in need are looked after.

Supplies are beginning to come into the community by helicopter as the Bay D'Espoir Highway remains closed. The road is the only access by car or truck for small communities on the Connaigre Peninsula and in the Coast of Bays region to the rest Newfoundland.

The provincial government had originally planned to deliver goods by a ferry that departed from Fortune on Sunday, but the boat is now in St. John's for repairs because of mechanical issues.

The government has also set up phone lines for questions relating to supplies, transport and more. The Provincial Emergency Operations Centre can be reached at 833-845-0775 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. NT, while Central Health will operate a health line at 1-833-960-4571.

King said those on the ground will have to see what Tuesday holds and how the fire behaves before figuring out their next move.

In the meantime, he's asking residents of his central Newfoundland town to remain prepared in the event that they need to be evacuated from a fire that on Monday was about 30 kilometres outside the town.

"That is pretty close when it comes to air quality potentially [being a] hazard," he said. "So right now we're asking everyone to have a bag packed, have your essentials ready to go, because depending on wind direction things can turn bad pretty quickly."

This article, written by Alex Kennedy, was originally published for CBC News.

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