Nova Scotia

Weekend fires under control, but frustration mounts over burn ban violations

Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency says it received "numerous" calls of illegal burns while out battling a weekend brush fire in Porters Lake that forced 1,000 people to leave their homes.

Halifax Fire says it received 'numerous' calls of illegal fires this weekend

The weekend forest fire near Chester Grant, N.S., is now under control, the Department of Lands and Forestry says. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

The province says several major forest and brush fires in Nova Scotia that kept crews busy over the weekend are now under control.

But there is still frustration that some people were not adhering to provincial burn bans, with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency saying it received "numerous" calls of illegal burns while out battling other fires.

Jim Rudderham, the province's acting manager for forest protection in Nova Scotia, said Monday morning that crews are out patrolling and looking for hot spots to make sure the fires stay contained and do not flare up again.

"The province is dry. We've had a beautiful week of nice, sunny, warm, windy weather and low humidity. And that just dries the forest out quickly," he said.

The first fire broke out near Chester Grant on Friday evening, covering about 27 hectares and razing at least two buildings. It also closed a section of Highway 12 for part of the weekend.

Rudderham said on Monday morning that crews were still patrolling in the area but that the fire "was pretty much done now."

On Saturday afternoon, a 50-hectare brush fire in Porters Lake forced 1,000 people to leave their homes. On Sunday evening, the fire was deemed under control and the evacuation order was lifted

Halifax Fire's deputy fire chief, Dave Meldrum, said crews were pulled away from Porters Lake over the weekend because of calls for illegal fires. There were 92 calls related to outside fires from 6 p.m. Friday to midnight on Sunday, making up 78 per cent of the weekend calls, he said.

Grace and Charles Whitford were some of the first residents asked to leave Saturday afternoon as part of the evacuation order for about 170 homes along West Porters Lake Road. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

"We received a number of complaints for people still burning, to our frustration in contradiction to both provincial and municipal burn bans," Meldrum said on Monday.

"We're still seeing conditions that are highly favourable to the spread of wildfire."

Rudderham said the Porters Lake fire was "pretty demanding" because of the many nearby infrastructures. He also said staff will likely be patrolling the Porters Lake fire on Monday and Tuesday to keep a close eye on hot spots.

But Sunday evening was still busy for firefighters. Rudderham said there was a fire near Maitland Bridge in Annapolis County, a small fire near Antigonish and two in Cape Breton — one near Big Pond and another nearby on Salmon River Road.

One person in Cape Breton has been charged with igniting a fire in the woods or within 1,000 feet of the woods during fire season without a burning permit, according to the Department of Environment. The individual is expected to appear in court on Sept. 16.

Crews also responded to a fire on a small island in Big Indian Lake near St. Margarets Bay on Sunday evening, but Rudderham said it is also contained.

"The fires are all contained now and hopefully this afternoon when things get nice and fresh again, we don't have a lot more starts, we hope," Rudderham said.

Rudderham also said he was frustrated to see on such a busy weekend that the burn restriction sign outside of the McGowan Lake base near Caledonia was cut off its posts. He said the repair will have to be done by local crews.

"That's just more work that these guys will have to go out and do," he said. "We're doing our best out here to keep everyone safe and it's very disconcerting to see someone do something as foolish as that — and mean."

Rudderham is urging people to keep an eye on the burn bans in place. Burning is not currently allowed anywhere in the province.

"That's there for a reason to keep everyone safe. And be extremely careful with anything that can start a fire," he said.

"It only takes a minute and off it goes."