ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Mohamed Ravalia thought his neighbours were out barbecuing on one of the first sunny summer days in St. John's when he caught the scent of smoke in the air early Monday afternoon.
Then he heard sirens, and looked outside to see flames shooting upwards behind the homes across the street in the heavily populated subdivision.
"For a moment, I couldn't see through the smoke and I actually thought one of the houses was on fire," Ravalia recalled, comparing the sight to images from Fort McMurray wildfires in 2016.
"You wouldn't think this would happen in good old Newfoundland," Ravalia joked, watering the grass outside his home on Orlando Street, where he and other residents were ordered to leave for a few hours as the fire department battled the wind and the heat as a forest fire encroached on the residential area.
The fast-moving fire was reported around 12:30 p.m. in the Kenmount Road area.
As the flames grew, a water bomber and a helicopter were called in.
Video images from the scene show large flames and heavy smoke inching closer to the neighbourhood as police moved door-to-door, telling people to evacuate their homes.
Some, like Ravalia, stayed with neighbours a few streets over, while others took shuttle buses to the Anglican church, where the Red Cross and Salvation Army provided food.
Later in the afternoon, emergency officials reported that firefighters had succeeded in getting the blaze under control.
By 5:30 p.m., residents were returning home, knocking on each other's doors to make sure everyone made it home safe.
Acting platoon Chief Scott Tilley said heat from the fire damaged the siding of 11 houses, but the house in the subdivision were spared.
"It was quite windy and quite a challenge today," said Tilley. "We're pretty confident now we're getting ahead of it."
He said electricity along Orlando Street will be gone "for some time" as utility poles were damaged in the fire.
The cause of the fire had yet to be determined.
Residents were asked to spray the outside of their homes in case the flames return during the night.
The Canadian Press