Fire Fighting in Canada

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Labrador town on alert as forest fire burns closer to town

June 28, 2013, Wabush, N.L. – Residents of Wabush in western Labrador were waiting to hear Friday whether a forest fire burning nearby would force them from their homes.

June 28, 2013
By The Canadian Press

June 28, 2013, Wabush, N.L. – Residents of Wabush in western Labrador were waiting to hear Friday whether a forest fire burning nearby would force them from their homes.

Officials issued a precautionary evacuation notice late Thursday after the fire shifted closer to the small mining town, coming within five kilometres.

Residents were advised to prepare a kit with any medication, extra clothing, cash, bank cards and a cellphone. However, officials stressed the advisory was a standby notice only.

Chuck Porter, a conservation officer with the Department of Natural Resources, said a fourth water bomber and additional ground help were dispatched to the area to help fight the blaze. He said suppression efforts focused on the part of the fire burning closest to the community.

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In a statement, Wabush Mayor Ron Barron said heavy machinery was being used to move earth and create a 300-metre barrier known as a firebreak in hopes of keeping the flames away from the community. About 40 firefighters were attacking the fire on the ground.

"The winds continue to be light and the smoke is moving in a northeasterly direction, parallel to the town," he said.

The fire, which had consumed about 6,000 hectares since Sunday, was prompting intermittent partial closures of the Trans-Labrador Highway. Canada Day festivities planned for Monday in the neighbouring town of Labrador City were postponed.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro was also warning of potential power outages as a result of the fire.

"To ensure the safety of customers and the public, electricity service may be temporarily suspended in Labrador West," the utility said Friday in a news release.

"Our customers are advised to take necessary precautions to prepare for a possible extended outage."

The provincial government also expanded its ban on outdoor fires for forest land in all areas of Labrador because of ongoing hot and dry conditions.