The Deputy Fire Chief for Richer says flames were shooting 10 feet into the air and travelling at 30 feet per second Thursday as crews battled numerous grass and brush fires.

"We've had multiple firefighters that were saying, 'I've never had to deal with a situation like this, where you've actually had to run from a fire and run away from it,'" says Dave Reith. 

Reith says the last couple of days were quite busy for the Richer Fire Department, noting the strong winds Thursday were not helpful.

It all started on Wednesday when Reith says they were called in to assist the Ste. Anne Fire Department with a grass fire that had been set by the landowner, along Road 46 North. He notes the owner had been clearing some brush and the fire got away. 

"It had grown significantly into the bush lines around his property and was progressing towards his neighbour's properties," recalls Reith. "It was multiple hours and a significant amount of manpower and so forth to contain that."

Later that evening, the Richer Fire Department was called east of Richer where a different landowner was burning brush. Reith says even though there was not much of a threat to structures or other property, a neighbour called it in. 

"We went out and extinguished the remaining hot spots that were around there," says Reith. "There was no threat to property or life or anything to that nature, but when we get a call, we go. So, we took care of that."

Richer Fire Department battling a brush fire (RIcher Fire Department)Photo credit: Richer Fire Department

Reith reminds the public that if you are planning a controlled burn, to contact your neighbours. He says if the fire is left unattended and your neighbour happens to pass by, he or she might unnecessarily call 911. 

Reith notes that in situations where the fire department learns of a controlled burn, they will communicate that with the 911 call centre. That way, if the fire is called into 911, they are prepared. 

According to Reith, he knows there are people out there who are afraid to call 911 for a fire they have deliberately set. Reith says the situation is obviously different if it is arson, but if someone starts a fire and it accidentally gets away from them, they should absolutely call 911.

"It's important for people to know that you are not going to be receiving a bill or a fine for calling the fire department," Reith assures. "If you feel you need to call them, that's what we're there for."

Meanwhile, the Richer Fire Department remained busy on Thursday, with multiple calls. Reith says they were called back to Road 46 North after the fire from Wednesday had reignited due to heavy winds. 

"Unfortunately, there were some structures that were lost out in that particular area with that rekindle with the wind and so forth," says Reith. 

He notes though no homes were damaged in the fire, there was a garage that was destroyed.

A brush fire in the southeast this week (Richer Fire Department)Photo credit: Richer Fire Department

While that was happening, Reith says they were called to assist with a large grass fire near the intersection of Provincial Roads 302 and 501, east of Ste. Genevieve. He notes the Richer Fire Department arrived on scene around one o'clock and stayed there into the evening. 

"It took a significant amount of manpower and coordination, all the firefighters involved did a fantastic job containing that," says Reith. "It covered a significant area and wasn't very easy to fight those fires, especially with the excessive winds."

Reith says the fire travelled very quickly, particularly because of the significant amount of dry material that acted as fuel. 

"It's mind-blowing," says Reith, referring to how quickly the fire spread in the strong winds Thursday. "Thankfully (the firefighters) weren't in a position where they were in the line of fire, because you can't outrun it, it's just that quick. So, it's extremely dangerous."

He notes the fire jumped the highway a couple of times and says a significant number of hydro poles were destroyed in that area.

Reith says at one point there were five departments involved on Thursday, including ones from Richer, Ste. Anne, Tache, La Broquerie and Giroux.

He notes from what he knows there were no injuries from any of the calls over the last two days. However, Reith says he would not be surprised if a firefighter had to be treated for smoke inhalation. 

"There were even times when myself and our Chief were suffering pretty hard from some of the smoke inhalation because the wind was so strong and shifting, makes it very difficult to breathe in those situations," he says. 

Meanwhile, Reith says the rain in the forecast for this weekend is certainly welcome. He notes none of the surrounding municipalities had burn bans in place when these fires were set but considering how dry it is, that could soon change.