Weekend fires under control, but frustration mounts over burn ban violations
Halifax Fire says it received 'numerous' calls of illegal fires this weekend
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.
Lands and Forestry staff and two helicopters responded to a fire off Highway 12 in Chester Grant.<br><br>The estimated size of the fire is 20+ hectares. 20 other fire departments from three counties (Lunenberg, Kings, Hants) are also involved. <a href="https://t.co/6QFt0Aydab">pic.twitter.com/6QFt0Aydab</a>—@NSLandsForestry
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."
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.
"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.
Helicopter responding to fire at Big Indian Lake near St. Margaret's Bay. Suppression efforts underway. <a href="https://t.co/Z7WF7f6iZI">pic.twitter.com/Z7WF7f6iZI</a>—@NSLandsForestry
"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."
Our wildfire crews have been busy this weekend responding to fires and it’s still early In the season. Something we don't want to deal with right now -- vandalism.<br> <br>The burn restriction sign outside our McGowan Lake base near Caledonia was recently cut off its posts. <a href="https://t.co/pMZVyMEIjc">pic.twitter.com/pMZVyMEIjc</a>—@NSLandsForestry
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."