Nova Scotia

Fire chief suggests some Nova Scotia wildfires intentional

An Annapolis Royal firefighter says some of the recent wildfires across Nova Scotia appear to have been started intentionally.

Malcolm Francis said fires had 'similarities' that suggest arson; police say it's too early to tell

Malcolm Francis, a fire chief with 37 years of firefighting experience, says he noticed particular similarities that suggest not all the forest fires burning in the province occurred by chance. (Communications Nova Scotia)

An Annapolis Royal firefighter says some of the recent wildfires across Nova Scotia appear to have been started intentionally.

Malcolm Francis, a fire chief with 37 years of firefighting experience, told CBC Radio's Mainstreet in Halifax that his team has responded to multiple blazes in the past week, and that he noticed particular similarities that suggest not all the fires occurred by chance.

"I'm sure a lot of them are accidentally started by cigarette butts, but for the mass majority of fires we've been dealing with the past seven days, I believe they are deliberately set," Francis said.

'Patterns seem to be the same'

Malcolm Francis, fire chief of Annapolis Royal Volunteer Fire Department, said said the RCMP and Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources would be investigating. (Annapolis Royal Volunteer Fire Department)

"The patterns seem to be the same. I don't want to go into details, but all these fires had very close similarities," he added.

Although Francis would not provide further information, he said the RCMP and Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources would be investigating.

When CBC News reached out to the RCMP and DNR for comment, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke responded on behalf of both parties, as well as the province.

'Too early' to comment on cause

She writes in an email, "There has been no indication that the fires were deliberately set. The cause of these fires is still under investigation and in any fire investigation we look to pinpoint the cause, whether it's human (accidentally or deliberate) or natural (like a lightning strike)."

Regarding what could have triggered the conflagrations, she added, "It's too early for us to comment on possible causes at this stage."

Clarke says the RCMP, DNR, and the Office of the Fire Marshal are collaborating on the investigation.

Fire departments feel the strain

No matter what caused the fires, Francis and the 38 members of the Annapolis Royal Volunteer Fire Department are responding and feeling the heat.

"It's putting a strain on all fire departments in Annapolis County, Kings County, Queens County and Digby County," he told Mainstreet host Bob Murphy.

Francis says the strain comes from a lack of equipment, and human resources: "We're trying to backfill our halls with other pump trucks and tankers and it's quite a task.

"We have to be so careful with how we distribute our vehicles on these fire calls, and if these fires that we're going to are not accidental, it could be jeopardizing somebody's life where these trucks could be used in another way"

He adds, "All of my members have day jobs, and while some employers will give them up freely, others unfortunately can't."

Dry weather causing 'worst fires we've seen'

Francis said this summer's wildfires are unprecedented: "I've talked to a lot older firefighters who have served similar amounts of time as myself. We don't remember any weather like this, especially fires of this type.

"It's going to take at least two, three days of a good, reasonably heavy rain to help these fires."

Francis says though the province's burn bans and trail bans help with fire prevention, they should have come earlier: "When the index gets up to the extreme level [as it did last week], closing the woods for walkers and hikers would have helped a lot."

About the Author

Felicia Latour is a news and current affairs reporter in Halifax. She previously worked for CBC in Corner Brook, N.L., and Toronto.

With files from Mainstreet