Showers forecast for Lab West

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Regional forest fire enters third week

A forest fire burning through western Labrador and parts of Quebec continued to require the attention of multiple government assets Monday, though smouldering hot spots were a more common sight than actual flames.

Provincial forest fire duty officer Eric Earle said there were not as many flare-ups in the area Monday.

A helicopter was dispatched with an infrared scanner to help identify hot spots for ground crews to focus on. Earle was still waiting to get those results when he spoke with The Telegram late Monday afternoon.

Water bombers were requested at one point Monday, but were otherwise in the area on standby, tasked with responding specifically to flare-ups.

“If the wind picks up, which it does in warmer temperatures, those hot spots that are just smouldering have the potential to flare back up again,” said Earle.

While the situation looked better Monday, Earle cautioned the potential for fires to flare up remains as the fire enters its third week.

The extended forecast from Environment Canada offered some good news for efforts to suppress the fire, with a 40 per cent possibility of showers forecast for Wednesday and further showers forecast for Thursday. Showers were in the forecast for Monday night, and Environment Canada also reported a risk of frost in the area.

“That will help, and it may cool things down again and allow us to eliminate some more hot spots,” Earle said of the forecasted showers.

The forest fire started on June 23 and has continued ever since. The community of Wabush was evacuated for two days as the fire came within four kilometres of the town.

Blue skies were visible near Wabush Monday, according to pictures taken, and areas the forest fire has since moved on from are now accessible. Melted vehicles and damaged campsites were found in some of those areas. The fire also destroyed some cabins as it made its way through western Labrador.

On a Department of Natural Resources website devoted to information on active forest fires, visibility was reported to be good. Intense clouds of smoke originating from forest fires in Quebec have periodically prevented water bombers from taking part in fire suppression efforts.

The government estimates the fire has burned 27,000 hectares of land, 15,000 of which is located in Labrador with the remaining 12,000 hectares situated in Quebec.

Earle said more firefighters were scheduled to arrive in the area from Newfoundland Monday evening and today. Some would relieve personnel who have already been working in the area for several days, while others will provide added support, he said.

“At this stage, while we’ve got a handle on (the fires), we need to eliminate the hot spots, and to do that we have two choices — it’s either rainfall or firefighters.”

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary moved checkpoints for the restricted zone along the Trans-Labrador Highway Monday, extending that zone eastward along the highway to Grande Hermine Park — a distance of approximately 25 kilometres from the west checkpoint near Butler’s Pitt.

Police were continuing to escort vehicles through the restricted zone of the highway, but were asking motorists to not venture off the highway between the two checkpoints, citing the risk of possible flare-ups and the presence of toxins in the air.

Firefighters from the Labrador City Fire Department were assisting ground crews along the highway Monday.

Meanwhile, telecommunication services — including the 911 service — were restored to the area Sunday. A spokesman for Bell Aliant advised that a damaged fibre optic line was repaired late Sunday evening.

A break in the line Friday evening affecfted service to some landline, cellular and Internet customers.

 

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

 

Organizations: Environment Canada, Department of Natural Resources, Labrador City Fire Department Bell Aliant

Geographic location: Labrador, Quebec, Wabush Grande Hermine Park

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