MING’S BIGHT, N.L. — Darlene Blanchard left her Ming’s Bight home May 14 wondering if she would ever see it standing again.
A fire at the landfill in the Baie Verte Peninsula town that raged out of control led to the evacuation of about 20 families from their homes before it was extinguished.
The Blanchards’ New Town Road house would have been one of the first the flames reached if the local fire department, with assistance from firefighters in Baie Verte and the Department of Forestry and Land Resources, and a water bomber didn’t knock it down first.
When Blanchard saw the smoke from the landfill, she was not immediately concerned. Fires at the dump have been a common problem in the town, but nothing that had ever caused any widespread concern, let alone panic.
“The smoke started to get thicker and thicker,” she said. “I started to worry.”
Her son Jeremy went for a closer look as she went to talk to a neighbour. He soon told his mother it was time to evacuate.
“Go home, get the dogs, and get out,” he messaged to her. “… The fire is in the hills. The hills are on fire.”
On her way back to her home, she met a firefighter and the police. They also informed her of the evacuation.
“I went in and grabbed some clothes and started thinking, I started to panic,” Blanchard said. “What do you take? Are we going to lose our homes?”
She left for nearby Baie Verte and took very little with her. She regretted not taking pictures and cherished possessions, wondering if she would ever see them again.
She soon got word that things were under control. Relief set in.
“It was very, very scary,” she said.
Coun. Terry Fudge said a helicopter was expected May 15 to help maintain and control any remaining hot spots. He believed everything was under control as of Tuesday morning, but recognized the severity of the situation.
“It wasn’t very far once the woods caught on fire,” he said. “The dump itself wouldn’t be bad, but cars caught on fire when it was in the dump — they stack the cars there to be taken away — that exploded with the gas and tanks.”
Residents had their boats and recreational vehicles prepared to take from the town, prized possessions packed, according to the councillor.
“It was that close,” Fudge said.
Council was determining whether to declare a state of emergency when things changed for the better in the effort to control the fire. He said the high winds not only fueled the fire, but made things difficult for the water bomber. Eventually though, the plane got in the air and was key in extinguishing the fire and saving the town.
“That’s the only thing that saved us, the water bomber,” he said. “The fire department did a great job too, and the Baie Verte Fire Department came in … they protected us as well as they could.”
Fudge said fires at the landfill have been a regular problem, and he hopes this near disaster will open people’s eyes.
“Every year, we seem to have a fire in the dump, and it’s for no reason,” he said. “I think it is just somebody, and we don’t know who, for some reason had a fire there and it got out of control.”
While some communities gate their landfill or restrict its hours of usage, Fudge said the dump in Ming’s Bight is too busy to do that. Both Anaconda Mining and Rambler Metals and Mining regularly use the facility, he said, multiple times per day.
“No matter what caution you want to put in place, if somebody wants to have a fire in the dump, they are going to have it there,” he said.
Blanchard also says something needs to be done.
“It is scary when you think somebody’s stupid mistake could have cost us our homes,” she said. “What you have worked for for years and years and years could have been gone just by somebody going in and lighting a fire in the garbage dump.”
A fire at the Ming’s Bight landfill that raged out of control Monday led to the evacuation of about 20 families from their homes before it was extinguished.
The Baie Verte Peninsula town was threatened as flames spread with the high winds that ripped through the area.
The fire was detected around mid-afternoon, and the local fire department started fighting it with assistance from firefighters from Baie Verte and the Department of Forestry and Land Resources. A water bomber flew in to assist, and helped save the town by dropping water from the bay onto the dump.