Nova Scotia

Kejimkujik National Park still open despite nearby fires

Dozens of guests left a Nova Scotia vacation spot near Kejimkujik National Park this weekend as forest fires continue to burn in the area.

Dozens of tourists evacuated from chalet near Keji park as forest fires continue to burn

Stefan Ostermeyer took this photo of the fire damage near the Mersey River, N.S., on Saturday morning. (Stefan Ostermeyer)

Dozens of guests left a Nova Scotia vacation spot near Kejimkujik National Park this weekend as forest fires continue to burn in the area.

About 60 people — firefighters, volunteers and Department of Natural Resources crew members — have been battling the blaze since Thursday evening. 

Newfoundland and Labrador deployed a water bomber, with New Brunswick sending six, to help with two out of control fires near the park along Highway 8, which has been closed to traffic for more than a day.

"The fires are very large. Yesterday they grew in size very quickly," North Queens Fire Department Capt. David Lohnes told reporters Saturday.

Near Maitland Bridge, the fire jumped the highway, Lohnes said.

By 6 p.m. Saturday, the fire had burned about 24 hectares and was not contained, according to a statement from the Department of Natural Resources. Hours earlier, the department said the fire covered six hectares, and hadn't grown since Friday. 

Further up Highway 8, another fire, about 90 hectares in size, is burning in the Seven Mile Lake area, he said. 

North Queens Fire Department Capt. David Lohnes says crews from around Nova Scotia are trying to tame the fires. (CBC)

Guests at chalet left

Mersey River Chalets, which is near the Maitland Bridge fire, had about 80 guests when they got word of the fires Friday, co-owner Stefan Ostermeyer said.

Fire officials gave staff notice they had to be ready to leave within five minutes overnight, he said, so people slept in their clothes.

"Then they put out the voluntary evacuation, so most people left," Ostermeyer said Saturday morning.

"I have nine people [left], mostly foreigners, because I found places for all the other people who couldn't stay."

Lohnes said his fire department has "no concerns" any mandatory evacuations are coming. The fires near the park are burning on Crown land.

Highway closed

The Trunk 8 road, also known as Highway 8, remained closed Saturday starting at the Kejimkujik National Park gates and continuing between Maitland Bridge and Caledonia, according to the provincial transportation department's website.

As a result, the chalet cancelled all of Saturday's bookings, Ostermeyer said.

"It's high season and we are empty now," he said. 

"The guests couldn't unpack their suitcases because at any moment we could have to leave."

Fire ban at Keji

Kejimkujik National Park remains open, accessible only from the south due to the road closure. A fire ban is in force, as it is across much of the province, prohibiting campers from using any fuel sources except camping stoves.

The park is not in immediate risk due to fire, spokespeople for both Parks Canada and the Department of Natural Resources said. 

The fires are burning northeast of the park, and the wind is blowing it further away, Parks Canada visitor experience manager Sophie Borcoman said.

Visitor experience manager Sophie Borcoman says Nova Scotia has had an unusually dry summer. (CBC)

Water bombers landing

Indeed, she said people are still arriving, and can't notice any smoke in the park. 

"It's a regular summer visit to the park at this point despite the dryness and despite the fires," Borcoman said. 

The forest fire burning near Greenfield in Queens County Thursday night. (Greenfield and District Volunteer Fire Department/Facebook)

The only unusual thing happening is that anyone canoeing or kayaking is asked to stick to the perimeter of the lake, she said, as water bombers might be landing in it to refill. 

The crew also has been battling a third fire near Greenfield in Queens County. As of 6 p.m. Saturday, that was contained to five hectares. 

with files from Steve Berry, Shaina Luck and the Canadian Press