Shelburne County blaze 'rolling like a freight train,' more evacuations ordered Wednesday
Forest fire has surpassed 17,000 hectares; new fire ignites south of town of Shelburne
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A newly reported forest fire northeast of the large, out-of-control fire near Barrington, N.S, has led to evacuation notices for residents of Jordan Ferry, Jordan Bay and Lower Sandy Point.
In an emailed statement, provincial spokesperson Marla MacInnis said the province is responding to a new, out-of-control fire near Lake Road in the Municipality of Shelburne that's 20 hectares in size, with the potential to grow.
This comes as the largest forest fire in Nova Scotia's recorded history in Shelburne County continues to grow, with officials confirming Wednesday that dozens of homes have been destroyed and firefighters have spotted flames nearly 100 metres tall.
Evacuation is also recommended for parts of Lake Road, Sandy Point Road, including some smaller side streets and nearby businesses and streets including Shelburne Diesel, Shelburne Ship Repair, Ven-Rez, Bill Harris Transport, Coastal Tails and Adamant Drive.
Editor's note: The exact location of the Jordan Ferry-area fire cannot be shown until it's mapped by fire officials.
The larger fire, which started near Barrington Lake in Shelburne County on Saturday, is still out of control, and has now reached more than 17,000 hectares, according to an update from the Department of Natural Resources. Previously, the department reported the fire at more than 20,000 hectares and said the change in size "reflects more precise measurement."
Dave Rockwood, with the department, said during a news update on Wednesday officials were concerned about the fire, which continues to be "very fast moving."
"We are concerned with the head fire on this," Rockwood told reporters, noting firefighters have seen flames as tall as 60 to 90 metres.
"We start out the day with lower intensity, but by afternoon this thing has been getting up and rolling like a freight train."
He said that so far, about 50 residences have been lost to the fire, though there are no specific locations on the structures that have been destroyed.
More than 2,300 homes have now been evacuated in the Shelburne County area, affecting about 5,000 people, according to RCMP Chief Supt. Sue Black.
Also during the news update, Premier Tim Houston said formal requests to the federal government for assistance have been made, including help from military firefighters and a temporary leave benefit to support people who aren't able to work.
Houston said the fine for breaking the provincial burn ban has been raised to $25,000, up from $237.50 after eight burns were reported overnight.
"I do not know what they are thinking. I just don't get it with what's happening in this province, right now," Houston told reporters Wednesday. "The forests are simply too dry. The conditions are simply too volatile."
More help needed, resident says
Raymond Scott of Barrington Head, N.S., was out lobster fishing when the evacuation order was issued. By the time he got home, smoke was rolling down his driveway.
His wife had already packed the car, and the pair made their way to the evacuation centre at the arena in Barrington, a seaside community of 6,500 people.
Scott said about 50 people stayed at the shelter overnight Monday into Tuesday.
He said at the time he left, the fire was moving away from his home, so he wasn't overly worried, "but if the wind changes, of course it's going to be a different story."
Scott said while the Halifax-area wildfire is affecting more people, it is a smaller area than the Shelburne blaze, where he believes more firefighting resources are needed.
"I think we need a little bit more help, for sure, because it's a big fire," he said. "This could turn into disastrous if we don't get some help."
Scott planned to return to the water to bring in his lobster traps on Wednesday.
Shaun Hatfield, a municipal councillor in Barrington and a clergyman, said he left his home on Monday as well.
He said community members are supporting each other with housing and food, and people understandably want to know if their homes and camps are safe.
Officials still can't get that information, Hatfield said, but it will be shared as soon as it is safe to do so.
"The analogy I use is like that of war. The focus I think is on trying to extinguish the enemy, trying to conquer the fire, and you just can't count casualties when the war is going on."
Hatfield said experienced firefighters in the community say they are surprised by the strength and speed of the blaze.
"They've never really seen a fire move with as voracious an appetite as this one. It seems insatiable. It seems to be spreading faster than any of us imagined."
The Roseway Manor nursing home has been evacuated, and all schools in Shelburne County are closed Wednesday.
The Tri-County Regional Centre for Education later announced those schools will be closed for the rest of the week due to the fire, including:
- Barrington Municipal High School
- Clark's Harbour Elementary School
- Evelyn Richardson Memorial Elementary School
- Forest Ridge Academy
- Hillcrest Academy
- Lockeport Elementary & Regional High Schools
- Shelburne Regional High Schools
A mandatory evacuation order for east of 2794 Highway 3, Barrington, is in effect, which includes all of Oak Park Road and Factory Hill Road until the Shelburne County line.
As well, patients have been evacuated from Roseway Hospital, according to Nova Scotia Health, and the site is closed.
Fifteen patients have been transferred to South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater and Fishermen's Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg. Others were transferred to hospitals both inside and outside the Western Zone or discharged.
Nova Scotia Health also announced that the Roseway Hospital emergency department will be closed and services at the site will be cancelled until further notice.
Residents of Barrington who have been evacuated are being asked to check in at 902-637-7899.
Mandatory evacuation orders are also in place for all communities from Port Clyde through to Baccaro and along Highway 309 to the intersection of Oak Park Road and Highway 3 in Barrington West, and from 800 Upper Clyde Rd. to 2461 Upper Clyde Rd.
A reception centre has been set up at the Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena in Barrington, and comfort centres have been set up at the Shelburne Fire Hall and the Municipality of Barrington municipal building.
Residents of the Municipality of Shelburne who have left their homes are asked to check in with the municipal office at 902-875-3544, extension 245, to let officials know they are safe and out of the fire zone. Anyone who needs help with the evacuation can call 902-875-8407.
An evacuation centre has been set up at 63 King St. in Shelburne at the fire department auditorium.
The Town of Yarmouth has opened a comfort centre at the Yarmouth Fire Hall at 221 Pleasant St. in Yarmouth. It is open 24 hours for anyone who has been displaced by wildfires.
The Canadian Red Cross has shelters at the following locations:
- Barrington: Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena, 12 Park Lane, Sherose Island.
- Shelburne: Municipal Building and Fire Hall, 63 King Street, Shelburne.
- Halifax: Canada Games Centre in Halifax, 26 Thomas Raddall Dr, Halifax.
Another nearby wildfire burning in Pubnico in neighbouring Yarmouth County is burning out of control at 163 hectares. The department said nearly 30 firefighters are on scene as well as three helicopters. Rushton said Wednesday morning it is also expected to grow.
With files from Information Morning Nova Scotia, Nicola Seguin, Frances Willick and Danielle Edwards