The Bay d’Espoir highway was closed for a few hours after reopening Thursday morning as firefighters continue to battle multiple wildfires on the island of Newfoundland.
The provincial government closed the road for the day due to increasing smoke and deteriorating driving conditions, the provincial Ministry of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture said in a tweet shortly after noon.
The freeway will reopen at 8am NT on Friday and close at 12pm. The same schedule will be followed until Sunday noon.
In a press release issued just after 4 p.m. Thursday, the provincial government said it is monitoring the weather forecast and fire conditions and will update the public if changes to the schedule are needed.
The press release says the provincial government will reassess the schedule on Monday.
The press release states that high temperatures and winds with prevailing smoke are expected in the region in the short term.
“Residents and communities are asked to exercise caution and take steps to ensure personal safety and the safety of fire and street personnel,” the release said. “There is a significant amount of smoke that can obscure visibility and create difficult driving conditions.”
Residents who have a doctor’s appointment at Central Health between Thursday and Monday that they are unable to attend due to the fire should call the health department to reschedule, the release said.
The Canadian Red Cross also helps where possible with accommodation, admission, emergency clothing or food.
Earlier Thursday, provincial forest fire protection official Jeff Motty warned that a change in wind direction could blow more smoke into the area and make the road unsafe.
The Bay D’Espoir Highway (Route 360) is closed for the day due to increasing smoke levels and deteriorating driving conditions. An update will be provided tomorrow at 8:00 am #nltraffic #nlwx #GOVNL pic.twitter.com/RQIQWlrfwf
The province also opened the highway on Wednesday morning before later closing it again.
Motty said about 40 vehicles were waiting to enter the freeway early Thursday, according to the dispatcher. He said the main operational objective for the crews was to open up the highway.
“Safety is the top priority,” he said.
Motty said four water bombers and about 30 crew members were positioned to fight the fires near Bay d’Espoir and Paradise Lake. The provincial government is also requesting resources from Quebec.
He said additional resources are needed due to the size of the fires and the hot, dry weather. Some of the currently burning fires were started by lightning.
“These types of fires have time to build intensity and grow in size, and they burn hot and they burn deep,” Motty said.
He said no rain is currently forecast in the forest fire areas for the next few days.
He said the Quebec resources should arrive around 4 p.m. Thursday.
“We’ll send them straight to work,” he said.
He noted that the Newfoundland and Labrador government has shared resources to fight fires in Ontario and British Columbia in recent years.
Motty said a group from the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador presented firefighters with a thank you card.
“Crew morale is really high, and it’s just these little recognitions from other groups that really keep them going,” he said.
The Autism Society of NL kindly shared the Lion Max Simms Camp with our crews and we were delighted to receive a large card that they designed & signed. That really gave us a boost! Many thanks to @AutismSocietyNL from our teams on site & back to the offices. #GovNL #nltraffic pic.twitter.com/pr14o798bY
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