Controlled fire gets out of control
A controlled brush fire got out of control on Thicket Road in Harbour Grace last week. Volunteer firefighters from Harbour Grace Fire Brigade and Upper Island Cove Fire Department battled the blaze for hours before it was extinguished by a water bomber helicopter.
Harbour Grace Fire Chief Sonia Williams says her brigade got the call for help around 11:30 a.m. Monday, April 20. Williams, along with 17 other fire fighters, left what they were doing (including their jobs) and rushed to the scene. It was the third time in eight days the Harbour Grace Volunteer Fire Brigade had to respond to this type of fire.
“A normal burning of brush on berry grounds for a better fall crop got out of control,” said Williams. “The wind took it and it spread very quickly, which sometimes happens quicker than we think. A brush fire may seem to be contained or controlled, but as soon as the wind picks up, it travels really fast. If there aren’t enough people at the location supervising it, it can easily burn out of control.”
Within minutes the fire had spread to both sides of the ridge.
“It went a fair distance, but fortunately it was still quite a ways from any homes. We didn’t want it to spread to any trees or wooded area,” said Williams.
The location of the fire, away from a water supply, made it difficult to contain. To make matters worse the firefighters had to drag hoses 900 to 1000 feet long up over hills and rough terrain.
“It took a lot of man power to haul the hoses over the ground. Those hoses are very heavy,” said the fire chief. “In order to maintain a strong water supply we had to keep two pumpers going at all times. When we were using our pumper the fire service from Upper Island Cove was refilling theirs and then we would switch... we worked together and we worked together well. It was truly a team effort.”
While the firefighters from Upper Island Cove and Harbour Grace were battling the blaze, two other volunteer fire departments were also helping out.
Carbonear firefighters were on stand by at the Harbour Grace fire hall, while members of the Spaniards Bay Volunteer Fire Department were covering off any emergency calls that might come in at the Upper Island Cove department.
“We all help each other out whenever we can,” said Williams. “This is what you would definitely deem as sharing resources.”
Because the fire was difficult to control, Williams decided to call for a forestry water bomber. She called the Department of Forestry and Agriculture several times, but didn’t get an answer. She also called the Fire Commissioners office and, as luck would have it, found a phone number, for someone connected to the department of Forestry and Agriculture, keyed in on her cell phone. About 50 minutes later a water bomber helicopter arrived on the scene and by 4 p.m., the fire was out.
The volunteer firemen had just returned to their own fire halls when Carbonear department had to rush out again to extinguish another brush fire on Long’s Hill. The department responded to two other brush fires as well as a house fire on Saturday April 18.
“People really need to be careful about burning brush at this time of year,” said Williams.“It’s been a very dry winter, in fact we’ve hardly had any snow since February so the ground is drier than usual. People may be assuming, just because it’s spring, there’s lots of water in the ground, but it’s actually quite dry and crunchy. They need to be extra careful when lighting a fire.”
Residents are also reminded that to burn anything they must first obtain a valid permit from the town council. Anyone caught burning without such permit can be fined and charged. A NO Burn policy comes into effect in May and ends in October.
FIRE ON THE RIDGE - A brush fire on Thicket Road in Harbour Grace burned out of control Monday April 20.
HAULING HOSES - Firefighters from Harbour Grace Volunteer Fire Department work quickly to control a brush fire in Harbour Grace, April 20.
WATER BOMBER - Volunteer fire fighters from Harbour Grace Fire Brigade and Upper Island Cove Volunteer Fire Department battled a brush blaze on Thicket Road in Harbour Grace for hours before it was extinguished by a water bomber.