Wildfires came after difficult years for Newfoundland's volunteer town councils

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Two municipal officials serving Newfoundland's south coast say the wildfires that temporarily cut off the area's main grocery supply was yet another major challenge after more than two years of extraordinary difficulties.

Steve Crewe, mayor of Hermitage-Sandyville, and Roy Drake, deputy mayor of Harbour Breton, said in recent interviews that COVID-19 and the provincewide doctor shortage were already taxing volunteer officials in their area.

Crewe said that when the main highway into his community was cut off last week, he spent his mornings and nights organizing emergency grocery deliveries, and his days at his regular paying job.

Unlike their counterparts in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, municipal officials in rural Newfoundland and Labrador are often unpaid volunteers.

Though neither Crewe nor Drake said they had any regrets, Crewe says he hopes someday there could be a way to offer small-town officials more support, or perhaps even a small wage.

Wildfires that began on July 24 in central Newfoundland shut down the Bay d'Espoir highway for five days beginning Aug. 4, cutting off the only road linking several southern Newfoundland communities with the rest of the island.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.

The Canadian Press