C.B.S. mayor apologizes for Kelligrews fire

Cause still unknown; many think fireworks show was the culprit

Published on July 23, 2014

The sun poured down on Tilley’s Road South in Kelligrews Tuesday as residents stood on their lawns watching waterbombers make drops on a nearby brush fire.

A fire broke out around 750 metres from their street Sunday evening and continued to burn into the afternoon. Many speculate fireworks set off by the Town of Conception Bay South were the cause, and even before that is verified, the mayor of C.B.S. has apologized.

“If they tell us it was fireworks that caused it, and even if they don’t, as mayor I’d like to apologize to the residents that are being affected by the smoke and even the stress of wondering if the winds are going to pick up and the flames are going to reach their homes,” Mayor Ken McDonald said.

“As a mayor, a lot of the time you stand up and brag about the good things going on in a town, but you’ve got to be prepared to stand up and take responsibility for the bad things as well.”

On Sunday evening, fireworks for the Kelligrews Soiree began at Sgt. Ned Nugent’s Park — an area closely surrounded by forest. The fireworks began at 10 p.m.; by 11 p.m., the fire department got its first call.

The Department of Natural Resources and the C.B.S. fire department have been working to put out the fire for days. Since Monday, waterbombers have been doing drops every 10 minutes.

Two young boys ride their bike up and down the street, waiting for the next drop.

“I watched the fireworks Sunday night,” one said. “It was probably the grand finale that did it.”

“Maybe they should stop doing fireworks in the summertime and just do it on New Year’s Eve,” said a woman who did not wish to be named.

“Even if they had gone out off the Cronin’s Head up there, even if they set them off from a boat, then everybody could see it from all over.”

C.B.S. fire Chief Todd Brophy said Tuesday the fire covers about three hectares, and will likely burn for another day or two. He says there were some hot spots and deep-seated areas that were difficult to put out, but he wants to assure residents there was no immediate threat to their homes or property.

Meanwhile, the Department of Natural Resources is investigating the official cause of the fire, but McDonald says the town will likely consider moving the location of the fireworks.

“After all events, we have what we call a ‘lesson learned’ session,” he said.

“Maybe with the expansive growth that is taking place, maybe it’s time to start looking at somewhere else to put off the fireworks. Maybe there is another location that would be better suited.

“I’m apologizing to the residents if in any way the town had anything to do with this happening, and thanking them for putting up with the situation and handling it the way they did.”

Residents say smoke in the area was terrible.

“The smoke was really, really bad last night. I had to close our bedroom doors,” one woman said.

“The car windows were closed, but inside the van I couldn’t breathe, it was so bad.”

Although there was no visible smoke in the neighbourhood Tuesday, the smell is still strong in parts of C.B.S.

Residents are being permitted to stay in the Salvation Army building if they do not wish to remain in their homes.

A number of other fires have broken out on the Avalon in the past few days, and as a result, the province has banned all outdoor fires.