Forest fire near Kejimkujik creating problems for Christmas tree woodlots
"Everyone is ... taking all the precautions they can," says Christmas tree farmer Mike Keddy
The owner of a woodlot in Seven Mile Lake, N.S., near Kejimkujik National Park says this week's forest fire wiped out his 12-hectare Christmas tree lot.
Department of Natural Resources officials say the fire has destroyed about 350 hectares of woodland. Dan Rowter owns land on the west side of Route 8 just north of the park. He figures about 80 hectares of that woodland is his.
"It's a loss," said Rowter. "Nothing you can do about it. Nobody was hurt."
He harvests Christmas trees from two lots on that land and sells the trees to a retailer based in Lunenburg. He's been driving from his home in Bridgewater to check on the lots, but it's been impossible to get close enough to inspect all of the damage.
Praise for firefighters
Rowter gives credit to the firefighters in the field who've been battling the fire for six days now.
"These guys are out there doing their best to fight this thing," he said. "The winds are playing havoc with it."
On Tuesday, the winds were blowing from the northwest, pushing the fire in an eastern direction and forcing it to jump from his land west of Route 8 to the east side of the road.
By Wednesday, the winds shifted slightly and are blowing from the southwest.
No rain is expected until Saturday.
Rowter says he's not worried about the financial impact of losing the 80 hectares, but he says the land has been in his family for generations.
"You don't like to lose it," he said. "There are generations to come and you certainly would like to have it intact for them," he said.
'Everyone is on high alert'
Meanwhile, woodlot owners in the path of the fire aren't taking any chances.
Mike Keddy runs a Christmas tree farm in New Ross. This is his busy season when crews are normally out with power saws trimming the trees. However, he's not allowing any machinery on his woodlot.
"The brooks are dry," said Keddy. "The water table is as low as we've ever seen it."
"Everyone is on high alert and taking all the precautions they can."
Keddy says he's letting workers in the woods to do some shearing, but they're only allowed to use knives.
"The reality is it's difficult to stop working in the middle of your season," he said.