Half of Shelburne County population now under evacuation order as wildfires grow
Fire near Barrington Lake is now about 20,000 hectares, new fire near Shelburne now 120 hectares
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An air quality alert has been issued for Lockeport, N.S. as two out-of-control wildfires in Shelburne County in Nova Scotia's southwestern region continue to grow.
In a post to social media on Thursday night, the province said smoke from the fires has caused dangerous air quality issues in the area, "but could be expected in Shelburne County."
The province said weather conditions could cause air quality issues to persist for the next day. It recommended people with health issues or those experiencing difficulties consider leaving until the air quality improves. The province also recommended people keep windows and doors closed and turn off air conditioning units. It said people should be wearing masks if they're outside.
RCMP Cpl. Chris Marshall said as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, about 3,200 homes had been evacuated, displacing 6,700 people — roughly half of Shelburne County's population.
The biggest fire started in Barrington Lake in Shelburne County on Saturday and, as of Thursday, covered an estimated 20,000 hectares, up from Wednesday's estimate of 17,185 hectares.
The forest fire is the largest one in Nova Scotia's recorded history, and has destroyed at least 50 homes and cottages.
Crews worked in blazing hot conditions, with temperatures reaching 32 C.
"[Thursday's] weather is not going to be a friend of the firefighters," Natural Resources Minister Tory Rushton told the CBC's Information Morning Nova Scotia on Thursday.
Firefighters have reported seeing flames nearly 100 metres tall.
More firefighting crews and equipment are expected to arrive in Nova Scotia after Ottawa approved a request from Premier Tim Houston for more resources. Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced the support Thursday morning in Ottawa.
The Canadian Armed Forces will provide planning and co-ordination support, as well as firefighters and fire specialists to help control the blazes. The firefighters will be used to relieve crews who have been working on the ground for days.
"They're doing an extraordinary job, but quite frankly they need help. They need relief and they need additional resources," Blair said. "That is a particularly dangerous fire and we're very concerned that it actually threatens a number of communities and other critical infrastructure in southern Nova Scotia, and so we'll move as quickly as possible to bring them that relief."
Province may bring in modular housing
Housing Minister John Lohr told reporters Thursday the province is considering bringing in modular houses — likely prefabricated homes that are transported to a location on a truck and then hooked up to water and sewer connections — to help alleviate the need for temporary housing in the southwestern region.
"Obviously when the fire is out, the housing situation there will be a big concern. We know there isn't really the local trades and infrastructure there to the extent that will need to be there to address the losses."
The homes could also be brought to the areas near Halifax where fires have displaced people, Lohr said.
Manufacturers have already contacted the government to let it know they have units available, and Lohr said he hopes the homes could be delivered in "weeks not months."
Barrington Lake fire
More than 38 firefighters from the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) are on the scene, as well as 40 from volunteer and municipal departments.
Mandatory evacuation orders are 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.
Residents of Barrington who have been evacuated are being asked to check in at 902-637-7899.
Residents of the Municipality of the District 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.
All schools in Shelburne County are closed Thursday and Friday.
Fire near town of Shelburne
Another forest fire outside the town of Shelburne near Lake Road grew to 120 hectares on Thursday, up from an estimate of 20 hectares when it was reported on Wednesday evening.
Twenty-three firefighters from DNR were on the scene.
"[Wednesday] night we got scared because the fire was getting very close to the town," said town Mayor Harold Locke on Thursday afternoon, adding that the water treatment facility was in the vicinity of the fire but was not affected.
"They are gaining on that. They haven't got it totally under control, but they are gaining."
Locke said the small town of 1,600 is coming together to help each other with donations and offers of assistance. About 100 people stayed at an evacuation centre in the town on Wednesday night, he said.
A mandatory evacuation order for civic addresses 1518 Lake Rd., through to Jordan Bay, and from 674 Sandy Point Rd., through Lower Sandy Point, Jordan Bay, and Jordan Ferry to the Jordan Branch Road. Jordan Branch Road remains open.
To exit the Sandy Point Peninsula, residents are advised to exit through Sandy Point to avoid heavy smoke conditions through to Jordan Ferry.
There is an evacuation recommendation in place for 243 Sandy Point Rd. to 650 Sandy Point Rd., including Roseway Park, School Street, Commission Street, Harbourside Landing, Mayflower Road (the old boys' school), Shelburne Diesel, Shelburne Ship Repair, Ven-Rez, Bill Harris Transport, Coastal Trails, Adamant Drive, and Lake Road up to civic address 1536.
Evacuees were asked to register with the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582.
Patients were evacuated from Roseway Hospital in Shelburne, 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.
Speaking after cabinet on Thursday afternoon, Minister of Health and Wellness Michelle Thompson said Nova Scotia Health will be looking at relocating staff to other hospitals such as Queens General Hospital in Liverpool northeast of the fire.
"It's very early in this process ... we'll do everything that we can to support not only Queens but surrounding areas as well," Thompson said.
"We have other options as well for primary health care, we'll be looking ... at mobile clinics, those types of things."
Nova Scotia Health issued a public advisory Thursday listing locations for non-urgent health-care and mental health and wellness support for people in the area displaced by the fires.
- Shelburne Family Practice is offering telephone appointments. To book, call: 902-637-1278.
- Mobile Primary Care Clinic, 63 King St., Shelburne Community Centre is offering drop-in appointments from June 2-5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Barrington Comfort Centre at Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena, 12 Park Lane will have mental health and addictions staff from June 1 to 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Mobile Primary Care Clinic, Harbour South Medical Centre, 235 Main St., Yarmouth for mild or moderate health concerns on June 1, 15 and 29 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Barrington Health Centre has temporarily increased its blood collection hours to support Shelburne County patients
The Roseway Manor nursing home has also been evacuated, and 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.
Yarmouth County fire
A wildfire burning east of Lower East Pubnico in neighbouring Yarmouth County is still burning out of control but is still estimated to be 163 hectares as of Thursday morning. DNR said Thursday 20 firefighters from the department are on scene as well 10 firefighters from volunteer and municipal forces.
Dave Rockwood, a spokesperson for DNR, said Thursday afternoon firefighters were able to save two structures in the area, stopping the fire within just 20 centimetres of the buildings.
Air and heavy equipment resources, including eight air tankers from New Brunswick and two water bombers from Newfoundland and Labrador, are being co-ordinated between the three wildfires in Shelburne and Yarmouth counties, says a news release from DNR.
Evacuation and comfort centres
Several centres have been set up to provide safe places for evacuees:
- Shelburne Community Centre: 63 King St., Shelburne.
- Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena: 12 Park Lane, Barrington.
- Yarmouth Fire Hall: 221 Pleasant St., Yarmouth.
- Canada Games Centre: 26 Thomas Raddall Dr, Halifax.
With files from Information Morning, Michael Gorman and Frances Willick