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CBS Fire Chief urges residents to obey fire bans

By Mark Squibb/August 12, 2022

As forest fires continue to ravage central Newfoundland, Conception Bay South fire chief John Heffernan says it’s paramount that folks in CBS respect the provincial and municipal fire bans forbidding backyard fires, charcoal BBQ’s, and fireworks.

“Me included, everyone enjoys having a little backyard fire,” said Heffernan. “But I think we’re still a little way out from that yet.”

The Province implemented a fire ban for central and eastern areas of the island on August 5. Two days later that ban was extended to the entire island.

Fire departments within the northeast Avalon made a collective decision to implement a fire ban in late July, following a fire in Upper Gullies fire that burned for days and consumed almost seven hectares of land.

“The fire in Upper Gullies could have been significantly worse had we not gotten the resources that we did get in such a timely manner,” said Heffernan. “That was in a direct path with homes. It would have been much more concerning had we not got to it when we did.”

Heffernan said that crews also had to battle a significant fire at Topsail Beach last week.

“It had to be fought with handlines and crews on the ground, because all the air assets were in central at the time, which is understandable,” said Heffernan.

He said that folks taking heed to the fire ban is paramount to keeping the community safe, as even little fires, which are often preventable, tie up resources which are already limited.

“Any fire caused by human error is preventable, in our minds,” said Heffernan. “It was great to see the province put a fire ban on because that reinforced our messaging around it. But we’re still dealing with people who are continuing to have fires, whether it’s in their back yard, or on Crown Land or public land. So, we continue to deal with these things, and it’s a little bit frustrating sometimes because the messaging should be clear.”

Heffernan said that if anyone knows of someone not playing by the rules, they can give the fire department a call, who will then investigate the complaint.

“If someone is not compliant, then we certainly would encourage residents to make us aware,” said Heffernan. “We’ll leverage the appropriate agencies to attend with us, whether it’s our own municipal enforcement officers or the Department of Forestry.”

Most people though, said Heffernan, are respectful of the ban.

He said that this Saturday past, the station received a significant number of calls, both locally and through 911, regarding smoke that was visible in CBS from the fires that continued to burn in central.

“People are genuinely very nervous about how dry things are, and cognizant of it,” said Heffernan. “Here in Conception Bay South, we live in a wildland–urban interface, so typically, that’s an area that’s intermingled with forests and grasslands, and that’s essentially where we live, so this certainly puts us at a risk of fires spreading more then if you lived in a city centre.”

The lifting of fire bans, said Heffernan, is dependent on availability of resources and an assessment of the forest fire index.

The provincial ban is in place until at least August 16.

Heffernan also encouraged folks to be careful with their propane tanks and cigarettes, and to always have an extinguisher nearby.

Anyone with further questions can give the station a call at 834-6540.

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