Police do not know if a fire that burned a makeshift camp in the woods near the Corner Brook Stream Trail late Monday afternoon was deliberately set or an accident.
Either way, the fact it was extinguished shortly after it was detected likely saved the wooded area surrounding one of the city’s centrepiece attractions from being seriously scarred.
According to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the fire was reported by security personnel at the Sir Richard Squires Building at around 4 p.m. The police and the Corner Brook Fire Department responded and found a wooden structure nestled well off the trail engulfed in flames.
Deputy Chief Bill Griffin of the Corner Brook Fire Department said, given the dryness of the surrounding vegetation in the secluded area, it was fortunate the fire did not spread further.
“Only by the grace of God, we were able to get down there and knock it down as quickly as we did,” said Griffin.
The fire department initially walked in with what equipment firefighters could carry, but quickly realized they would need more to fight the situation that met them deeper into the woods. To deal with the fire, the department drove one of its pickup trucks down the stream trail and set up a portable pump that could draw water from the pond.
Griffin said it did not take long to knock the flames down, but the department remained at the scene for approximately 45 minutes to ensure there were no hot spots that might flare up again and the perimeter got a good soaking.
Const. Scott Mosher, the RNC’s media relations officer, said the structure, which measured approximately 12 x 15 feet in area, was destroyed in the fire. Mosher said neither the point of origin nor the source of the ignition have been determined due to the extent of the damage. There was no power source to the site and no accelerants were found at the scene, he added.
The RNC had no prior indication of such a structure existing in the woods near the stream.
The Western Star went looking for the site and managed to find it. Near the remains of the structure was a pile of garbage that included beer, liquor and pop containers. There was also a shoe box that had a portion of its lid torn off.
Several of the burned logs still had nails driven into them.
Much of the woods surrounding the site were dry, not surprising given the hot temperatures and little precipitation that the region has experienced in the last month or more.
The RNC’s forensics unit was on the scene Monday and the matter is still being investigated. Mosher said criminal charges might be possible if it can be determined the fire was set on purpose.
He said the mere existence of the structure would otherwise be a matter for either municipal enforcement or action by the property owner, if the land is not owned by the City of Corner Brook.
Most of the property in and around the Corner Brook Stream is owned by Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, which provided the land around the Glynmill Inn Pond and Corner Brook Stream for development of the popular trail network.