Petitcodiac, N.B., forest fire only 25% contained

Petitcodiac, N.B., forest fire only 25% contained

07 May 2013

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Canada — Petitcodiac and Kedgwick residents had been asked to leave for own safety

One of two forest fires in New Brunswick that had burned out of control most of the afternoon on Tuesday is about 25 per cent contained, the provincial government said.

Fires are burning near Petitcodiac, in southeastern New Brunswick, and in the northern community of Kedgwick.

The Department of Natural Resources had said earlier that both fires were considered nearly under control. But the fire near Petitcodiac is only 25 per cent contained, according to provincial Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spokeswoman Anne Bull on Tuesday evening.

The fire near Petitcodiac has destroyed at least three homes and forced the evacuation of several others. The fire in Kedgwick also resulted in the early evacuation of some homes in the village.

No casualties or injuries have been reported, according to Bull.

Firefighters from several departments were involved in fighting both fires, along with DNR officials, she said.

Water bombers were also used.

“Firefighting operations continue and adequate resources are in place, for now,” said Bull.

She could not say whether relief crews would be available to take over for the firefighters who had been battling the blazes most of the day.

There is no word yet on the cause of either fire, said Bull.

“It’s going to be difficult, if not impossible to determine, where water bombers and bulldozers have been involved because they destroy evidence,” she said.

Covered 500 hectares

The first fire, in an area known as The Glades, west of Moncton, spread over a 500-hectare area, said Bull.

At least three homes on Middlesex Road were destroyed and at least four others were being actively protected, she said.

“It is anticipated two more water bombing runs will stabilize the situation.”

All homes on that street were “self-evacuated” and the Red Cross was assessing the need for setting up a reception centre to assist residents, said Bull.

The fire was reported to officials at about 2 p.m. AT, said CBC reporter Tori Weldon.

It’s not clear how many homes were affected by the evacuation, she said.

But all residents who live along Sanitorium Road and Middlesex Road were being asked to leave their homes for safety reasons, RCMP Cpl. Chantal Farrah stated in a release.

The RCMP assisted fire officials with the evacuation, said Farrah.

Traffic was also being diverted from the area, she said. Road blocks were set up at the intersections of Sanitorium and Middlesex roads as well as the intersection of Middlesex and Grub roads.

One woman, who could see flames and black smoke from her backyard, had her keys in her car, ready to leave, but hoped to wait it out, said Weldon.

“I took the four-wheeler and the lawnmower out of the garage ’cause I know it’s probably going to hit there first,” the woman said. “I let my animals out in case it got to the house, ’cause they have enough sense to run away,” she said, fighting back tears.

“I don’t know what else to do.”

People in Moncton, about 45 kilometres away, could see and smell the smoke from the fire.

DNR officials and firefighters from seven fire departments, including Petitcodiac, Elgin, Salisbury, Penobsquis, Riverview, Moncton and Dieppe, were involved in fighting the blaze

At least 15 fire trucks were on scene.

A DNR bulldozer and three J.D. Irving Ltd. trucks were clearing a path, attempting to create a fire break, said Weldon.

Fire crews would not fight the fire after dark, she said. They would focus only on saving property.

Reached within 6 kilometres of village

The second fire in Kedgwick, about 300 kilometres north of Fredericton, was reported at about 3:40 p.m., according to RCMP.

It spread over a 50-hectare area, and was about six kilometres from the village centre, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

At one point, the entire village was going to be evacuated, but that was quickly scaled back to some people being asked to leave as a precautionary measure.

Later in the evening, the evacuation was called off because the fire was coming under control, said Bull.

“Local first responders and village reps are going door-to-door, advising residents they need to be prepared to evacuate on short notice, should conditions change,” she said.

Village officials also held a public information meeting at the Community Hall on St. Jean Street, said Bull.

Traffic was being diverted away from Rang 7, Rang 8 and Chemin du Moulin, said RCMP.

“The RCMP are asking for people to stay away from both areas for their safety and to allow firefighters to do their work,” said Farrah.

Number of fires on rise

The entire province remains under a no-burn order, due to dry conditions.

But the number of fires across the province continues to rise, said Charles Beaulieu, an officer with the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildfire Prevention Unit.

Rangers have battled 271 man-made fires so far this year, including more than 60 over the weekend.

“It’s frustrating to the fact that some people aren’t getting the message,” said Beaulieu. “We could put the fires out, it’s what we do, but we still like to get the message out that on days you’re not allowed to burn, you should not burn.

“People just don’t understand fire behaviour and that’s why we put a lot of science behind our burning permit system,” he said. “They don’t understand days when it’s acceptable to burn and when it’s safe to burn. That’s why we tell them the days they can’t burn and the days they can.”

No permits to burn grass have been issued so far this year, officials said.

Under the latest fire restrictions, anyone caught with a bonfire could be charged and face significant fines, starting at $172, said Beaulieu.

Tickets are handed out on a case-by-case basis, he said. DNR officials have also issued more than 60 warnings this year, he added.
It will take some steady, prolonged rain to improve conditions, said Beaulieu.

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