Con­trolled fire gets out of con­trol

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY DENISE PIKE

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.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of So­nia Wil­liams

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.

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