Churchill Falls fires: evacuees worried, but grateful

Nearly four days after being evacuated to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, several citizens of Churchill Falls are beginning to take steps to leave the region until the fires threatening their community are extinguished.

On Wednesday evening, Hydro Newfoundland and Labrador began the evacuation of approximately 750 residents and contractors who work at Churchill Falls.

A small team remained on site to operate the community’s power plant, which provides 15% of the electricity consumed in Quebec and nearly a quarter of Newfoundland and Labrador’s consumption.

Open in full screen mode

The manager of the municipality of Churchill Falls, Gerard Dunphy, was very emotional Saturday when talking about the impact of the fires on Hydro NL employees.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Saturday, Hydro NL. summoned the evacuated citizens to Happy Valley-Gosse Bay in order to fully understand what their needs will be over the coming days.

According to the head of the power plant and the municipality of Churchill Falls, Gerard Dunphyall evacuated employees were asked to register with their employer during a meeting held at the hotel North 2 Saturday afternoon.

We need to understand their needs so we can plan accordingly because we don’t know how long they will be outside Churchill Fallshe explained.

Open in full screen mode

According to NL, there were nine active wildfires in Labrador on Saturday, most of them uncontained.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Mr. Dunphy adds that Hydro NL. will provide assistance to employees so they can travel to family or friends elsewhere in the province.

[Churchill Falls]it’s a city that belongs to the company, so people do not own the residences found there, he explains, adding that Hydro NL. will offer assistance with travel and accommodation costs for its workers.

Worried, but grateful employees

Amy Wheelansone of the many evacuees who are now 300 km from their home in Churchill Fallssaid she was grateful for the measures taken to accommodate her.

It’s excellent, they are making plans […] They want to make sure everyone is taken care ofshe says, before adding that it is too early to know when she will be able to come home.

Her husband, Matthewis also grateful for the welcome received at Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Staying with friends with his wife and children, the couple say they want to return to Nova Scotia until things calm down in Churhill Falls.

We will drive to Cape Breton and stay there until we can get backexplainMatthew Wheelans.

The Butler family.

Open in full screen mode

Danielle, Nolan, Ryan and Hannah Butler quickly left Churhill Falls on Wednesday evening following the evacuation order issued by authorities.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Patrick Butler

Ryan and Danielle Butleralso evacuated with their two young children on Wednesday evening, are among the lucky ones who were able to stay with family who live Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

We have family here who have generously agreed to welcome us and take care of us and make sure we have everything we need. They also have young children and it’s nice to all be able to be togetherrejoices Danielle Butler.

Ryan also said he appreciates that Hydro NL. is considering organizing charter flights so that workers can easily travel to Newfoundland.

Goose Bay.”,”text”:”[Mercredi soir], we took the two children, clothes and what we could gather. We got out pretty quickly and everyone is taking care of us here at .”}}”>[Mercredi soir], we took the two children, clothes and what we could gather. We got out pretty quickly and everyone is taking care of us here at Goose Bayhe says.

We are not sure what the future holds. Maybe we’ll go to the island [de Terre-Neuve]. We’re a little nervous, we’ve worked hard for many years, there are a lot of memories in our home, it’s stressful, we’re holding on to hope that our community will get through thisadds Danielle.

A line of dozens of vehicles all going in the same direction on a one-lane highway.

Open in full screen mode

Motorists evacuate Churchill Falls, Labrador, due to a wildfire, June 19, 2024.

Photo: provided by Robert Dawe

Although the last few days have been an emotional roller coaster, Susan Chislette She also says that nothing is spared to reassure and make life easier for the evacuees.

They make sure we know what’s coming and allow us to go to family or friends to be in a safer placeshe said, adding that she will probably travel to Newfoundland with her family in the coming days. They’ll approach us when it’s time to go home, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Now that they have been in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for a few days, Danielle Butler explains that many of them are starting to realize that returning home may take time.

We don’t know when we will be able to return. At first, we thought we would only be gone for a few days, but now we are starting to understand that it could be longer than expected. We try to take things one day at a time […] Hopefully we’ll have a home to return to when this is overshe says.

The situation remains stable

In an updated message sent Saturday morning, Hydro T.-NL indicated that the fires raging in the region of Churchill Falls have not progressed since Friday.

Workforce will continue to focus on suppression effortswe can read in an update published online.

A tanker plane.

Open in full screen mode

Air tankers dispatched from Ontario arrived in Labrador Friday afternoon. A total of eight such devices will fight forest fires in the region over the coming days.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Héloïse Rodriguez

The Newfoundland and Labrador Forest Fire Management Officer, Mark Lawlorfor his part indicated that the weather forecasts for the day are good, which should allow air tankers to continue their efforts to bring the fires under control.

The most threatening fire for the region is still located about seven kilometers away.

According to Mr. Lawlor, p.m. or 4 p.m.h30, when the northwest flank of the fire”,”text”:”Friday, the air tankers attacked the fire, it went well until about 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m., when the north flank- west of the fire”}}”>Friday, air tankers attacked the fire, it went well until about 4 or 4:30 p.m., when the northwest flank of the fire intensified.

Air tankers were redeployed in this area and things were going pretty well as of Friday eveninghe explained during an interview on the airwaves of CBC.

Environment Canada is forecasting showers beginning this evening and ending late tonight in the region of Churchill Fallswhich could help firefighters in their efforts.

For the moment, the activities of the power plant of Churchill Falls have still not been disturbed.

With information from Patrick Butler, Héloïse Rodriguez and CBC

-

-

NEXT To lower electricity prices, the next government will have to change the rules