Nova Scotia

Forest fire near Kejimkujik National Park spreads to 350 hectares

Despite challenging weather on Wednesday, crews and aircraft in western Nova Scotia kept a forest fire near Kejimkujik National Park from spreading further.

Smoke spreading to Halifax; officials urging caution before calling 911 to report smelling smoke

Firefighters often do 14-day rotations when they're assigned to a fire and many working on the Seven Mile Lake fire have been there since Thursday night. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Despite challenging weather on Wednesday, crews and aircraft in western Nova Scotia kept a forest fire near Kejimkujik National Park from spreading further.

The fire at Seven Mile Lake is still active but is 35 per cent contained, the Department of Natural Resources said. It spread to 350 hectares by Wednesday, eating up 110 hectares on Tuesday.

Crews have spent six days battling that fire, which quadrupled in size since Saturday.

Another fire at Ten Mile Lake in Queens County is being held, but is still a challenge for firefighters.

Smaller, new fires out

A 0.1 hectare fire that started Wednesday in Round Hill in Annapolis County has been 100 per cent contained and is being patrolled. A smaller fire in Coldbrook was also extinguished Wednesday.

Three new fires in the Morganville area of Digby County were all put out.

Crews are working around the clock to curb its growth amid winds that picked up early in the afternoon, making the task more challenging.

"Today is supposed to be a beautiful day if you're on vacation, but a horrible day if you're fighting forest fires," said Jim Rudderham, the department's forest protection operations manager.

On Saturday officials had thought the Seven Mile Lake fire had burned 90 hectares. By Wednesday, it had ripped through 350 hectares. (CBC)

Fire often backtracks

He says air tankers are attacking the fire from above with crews trying to extinguish it on the ground.

The fire is moving forward and backward, pushed by the wind into places it has already burned.

The Seven Mile Lake fire is the biggest of more than 10 forest fires that have been reported in Nova Scotia since last week.

Two of them — Seven Mile Lake in Annapolis County and Ten Mile Lake in Queens County — are out of control.

The others have been contained or are no longer burning.

Hazy skies over Halifax

Environment Canada has issued special air quality statements that remain in effect for Annapolis, Lunenburg, Queens and Kings counties. By noon on Wednesday, the smoke had travelled as far as Halifax.

Twenty firefighters from New Brunswick are expected to join the dozens of firefighters already on the ground in Annapolis County. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Emergency officials are cautioning against calling 911 about smelling smoke because "there is a strong likelihood what they are in fact seeing and smelling is residue from the fires in southwestern Nova Scotia."

There have been 41 calls in the past three days reporting fires that turned out to be false alarms, a municipal spokesman says.

Meanwhile, a ban on brush burning and campfires is in effect across the province. 

'Creeping burn'

Some of the crews have been working since the Seven Mile Lake fire was discovered last Thursday.

The fire moved so quickly Monday night that crews were forced to leave the area. It slowed down on Tuesday, but spread further.

Rudderham says no firefighters have been injured, but it's been a tough slog.

"It's a creeping burn. It's just so hard for the crews, it's just challenging them so bad," he said.

"They win and they lose and they win and they lose. It's just hard."

Heavy equipment is clearing out brush and vegetation to try to create a zone the fire won't be able to pass. (Communications Nova Scotia)

So far, the fire has not threatened any homes. Rudderham says there's some extra protection around cottages and camps near the fire.

Digging fire breaks

Heavy equipment operators are digging up brush and vegetation to create wide sections where the fire can't pass.

"They are clearing away anything that can burn. Down to bare minimum soil," Rudderham said.

There were no new fires reported overnight Tuesday and so far, he says there are enough resources to go around. But every new fire draws crews away.

Twenty additional firefighters from New Brunswick and Rudderham were expected be on the ground Wednesday afternoon.