State of emergency to lift in Newfoundland as wildfire situation improves


Newfoundland and Labrador officials say the state of emergency called last weekend due to wildfires in the center of the province will end on Saturday.

Wildfire behavior, air quality and weather conditions were encouraging enough to support the decision, the Department of Justice and Public Safety said in a news release on Friday.

“The current forecast shows favorable weather conditions and continues on a positive trend,” the department said.

The state of emergency in the central Newfoundland cities of Grand Falls-Windsor, Bishop’s Falls and Botwood, and in the southern area of ​​the Connaigre Peninsula, will end at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Two wildfires near the central Newfoundland town of Grand Falls-Windsor and the nearby Bay d’Espoir Highway have been burning for nearly three weeks. They were triggered on July 24 by lightning strikes during a period of hot, dry weather. As of Friday, its estimated total area was holding steady at just over 90 square miles.

The fires have led to intermittent closures on the Bay d’Espoir motorway. Authorities announced a state of emergency last weekend.

Prime Minister Andrew Furey said in a video posted on social media late Thursday that weather conditions were “cooperative” and officials felt the situation was improving. “The threat level has gone down, though, but it’s still there,” he said.

Furey said patients who had been evacuated from health care facilities in the area were being returned. Further west, in the town of Deer Lake, an emergency shelter set up by the Canadian Red Cross for those fleeing the smoke was closed and its residents were transported back to their towns, the province said Friday.

Justin Boudreau, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada in Gander, NL, said Friday that the weekend forecast for the area called for rain, cool temperatures and even fog. In other words, he said, it boded well for those fighting the fires in central Newfoundland.

“If any summer could bring this kind of thing, I thought it was ours,” Boudreau said in an interview. “If these conditions continue, it is a reason to be cautiously optimistic.”

Boudreau said winds were low Friday and air quality was good, adding that fog could reach the area later that day. Rain was likely in the area on Saturday, with “direct showers” expected on Sunday.

There was a hint of smoke in the air Friday morning, he said, but air conditions have been good for the past few days.

“If we were to go into more extremely dry conditions, I’m sure it would probably flare up again,” he said. “As it stands now, we’re not seeing extended periods without rain, or at least no rain in the area. It’s reason for hope.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 12, 2022.

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