High winds hamper firefighters

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Labrador highway closure continues as fires rage into Day 3

A forest fire that forced people to evacuate cabins over the weekend near Labrador City continued to flare up Monday with no letup in sight.

Late Monday night, area resident Neil Simmons told The Telegram that persistent high winds  were fanning the flames.

He said residents were worried about forecasts that the wind would change direction today, driving the fire closer to their communities.

The Trans-Labrador Highway remained closed for the second straight day Monday between the weigh scales and Cowboy Creek, though the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary advised in a news release that there was no im-

mediate threat to nearby municipalities.

However, a person taking pictures in the area early Monday evening also reported to The Telegram that the forest fire appeared to be getting closer to cabins in the Blueberry Hill area. Police were advising cabin owners to stay away from the area.

Labrador Ground Search and Rescue and the Wabush Fire Department assisted police throughout the night Sunday evacuating cabin dwellers and getting traffic from a checkpoint at Demille Lake to Labrador City.

At one point on Monday, commercial vehicles carrying essential supplies, people with medical issues, and others with legitimate business were being escorted between the weigh scales and Cowboy Creek.

But by 1:30 p.m., the Department of Natural Resources advised that fire and smoke was once again approaching that area, forcing the RNC to close that portion of the highway to all traffic.

 

Labrador City Mayor Karen Oldford flew to Happy Valley-Goose Bay Monday morning to attend Expo Labrador, but she maintained contact with the fire chief back home throughout the day. She took two calls from the chief within a

20-minute time span prior to speaking with The Telegram.

“It’s not uncommon in our area to see a forest fire,” she said. “Once it gets hold, it becomes quite stubborn.”

She applauded the efforts of water bombers working to protect cottage areas close to the fire.

“Our weather is not co-operating,” she added. “We have very dry conditions right now and wind, so what we’re doing is really trying to protect the health and safety of people travelling the highway, because there’s fires on both sides of the highway.”

The fire was travelling southeast by Monday afternoon, but Oldford said it was difficult to predict how the fire would be affected by a potential change in direction.

“I do believe that they’re looking at trying to bring in some more water bomber resources.”

Oldford understood some people may be inconvenienced by the highway closure and may have ferries to catch, but said they need to comply for the sake of safety, stay out of the forest, and make alternate travel arrangements if necessary.

“I’d ask people to stay home. If they have no need to be in the area, please don’t add to the congestion on the highway. Search and rescue crews and safety crews, they need as much space as possible, and they don’t need to be worrying about whether someone else has gone into the woods.”

As of late Monday afternoon, the RNC said anyone feeling threatened by the fire should move towards Ashuanapi River.

Simmons told The Telegram at least one family he knew had their cabin burned to the ground.

 

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

 

Organizations: Labrador City, Trans-Labrador Highway, Wabush Fire Department Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Blueberry Hill, A2Labrador, Happy Valley Goose Bay

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